POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Bill that makes first statewide turf buy-back in the country passes

Mar 4, 2022, 7:52 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2022, 11:01 am
(Utah State Capitol.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...
(Utah State Capitol. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(Utah State Capitol. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Most of Utah’s municipal water goes outdoors about 70 percent. The state passed a bill trying to change that. The newly passed turf buy-back bill encourages people to replace their lawns with landscaping that uses less water.

The state will pay for up to 50 percent of the cost. But the bill also requires the state to take steps to conserve water.

“Really to have the state government setting the example on water-wise use in our landscaping,” said Rep. Robert Spendlove.

Officials and advocates spoke in favor of the bill.

“Last year was pretty stressful,” said Brian Steed with the Department of Natural Resources. “Whether if you are looking at the water conditions, we were facing last year. This year, I’m getting quite nervous as we have had multiple months without the water we need.”

Some lawmakers had concerns, but most were happy to move the bill forward and make changes later.

Turf buy-back

The Utah legislature recently passed three important water bills focused on water conversation in the midst of a historic megadrought, including the first statewide turf buyback program in the country.

About 70% of Utah’s municipal water use is outside the home, mostly for thirsty turfgrass. While some turf areas are important and provide a lot of benefit (e.g., parks and playgrounds), many turf areas are hardly used and could be replaced by beautiful drought-tolerant vegetation that requires little to no water at all. 

House Bill 121 (water conservation modifications) provides $5 million in incentives for people that want to voluntarily replace turf with drought-resistant landscaping and imposes water conservation requirements by state agencies at state government facilities.

The passage of this legislation makes it the first ever statewide program of its kind.

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Bill that makes first statewide turf buy-back in the country passes