A special turf that uses less water in Utah’s drought is growing in popularity

Jul 6, 2023, 11:00 AM

"SLC Turf Trade," a special blend of grass seed that uses less water is selling out at stores....

"SLC Turf Trade," a special blend of grass seed that uses less water is selling out at stores.

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

SALT LAKE CITY — John and Diane Whittaker’s lawn wasn’t looking so great.

“Our lawn was on life support,” John Whittaker said. “We were debating back and forth to go zero or whatever it’s called, or sod, or try this.”

They installed “SLC Turf Trade,” a special blend of grass seed being offered by Salt Lake City Public Utilities that uses up to 40% less water. They installed it in April and it still looks green.

“It looks great! We’re happy,” John said.

“Very happy with the way it looks,” added Diane. “It’s just so green and pretty and fine. Yeah, we couldn’t be happier with it.”

Salt Lake City Public Utilities partnered with Utah State University’s Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance to come up with the special blend of tall fescue and low-water Kentucky Bluegrass. You don’t have to remove your lawn to plant it, just kill the grass, mow it low and seed, said Stephanie Duer, Salt Lake City’s conservation manager.

After FOX 13 News first reported on SLC Turf Trade last year, the bags of seed started flying off the shelves.

“It’s been very successful,” Duer said. “We brought in about three times as much grass seed this year than we did last year, and we sold out in 24 hours.”

Other cities and local water districts have also started to offer it. Provo told FOX 13 News it sold out quickly and, like Salt Lake City, now has a waitlist for customers. Ogden and the Granger-Hunter Improvement District also ran out. The good news is retailers have started to sell it.

“If you think about the environment and the Great Salt Lake and water conservation or just water in general? Folks who think about those things want to do the right thing. They just don’t necessarily know what that looks like and how to achieve it,” Duer said.

Dr. Kopp, who heads USU’s Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping and helped design SLC Turf Trade, said lawn is not the enemy, but people need to think about what they use it for. “Nonfunctional turf” is lawn that isn’t really used.

“People want to do the right thing but they also want to have some lawn,” she told FOX 13 News. “They want lawn for their kids to play on, they want lawn for their pets. This is a way to for them to have both. They can have the best of both worlds and still help the state in meeting its water conservation goals.”

The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance said about 1,000 households have installed the grass across Utah with more coming. Communities in and around Utah are contacting USU and TWCA to try to offer their own drought-tolerant grass blends.

SLC Turf Trade is specially formulated for this area along the Wasatch Front. Other communities, particularly in southern Utah, will likely need their own blends because of their climate conditions, Dr. Kopp said.

“Our hope is that we can find drought tolerant turf grasses across all of the species,” said Jack Karlin, TWCA’s executive director.

While other communities may want some of their own to sell, TWCA also can point people to existing grass blends that can save people water and money. It can also help cut water demand in the Great Salt Lake Basin, which is struggling with drought and the shrinking lake.

“TWCA drought-qualified turfgrass is not a silver bullet,” Karlin cautioned. “This is only one component of a larger conservation program. But yes, I think if used extensively and appropriately, it can be a benefit for the Great Salt Lake.”

The Whittakers said their neighborhood is watching their lawn to see how it turns out.

“We have a lot of neighbors that are using us as their test case. They’re waiting to see if it works out for us they’re going to do it too,” Diane Whittaker said.

You can find out where to purchase SLC Turf Trade here.


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah Drought

Salt Lake City's 2023 mayoral candidates, from left to right: community activist Michael Valentine,...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

What Salt Lake City’s mayoral candidates have to say about Great Salt Lake’s future

The three Salt Lake City candidates for Mayor discuss the issues surrounding the Great Salt Lake ahead of the November election.

4 days ago

El Nino could help Utah, but it could hurt Utah, KSL Meteorologist says....

Adam Small and Derrick Jones

Will El Niño bring snow to Utah this winter? KSL Meteorologist says, maybe

With a lot of excitement about El Nino, and coming off last year's historic winter, many Utahns are hopeful.

6 days ago

Image of jetskiers on Pineview Reservoir in Weber County in August, 2023. As the end of Utah's wate...

Don Brinkerhoff

As water year ends, reservoirs around Utah are in a “good place”

As the water year comes to an end in Utah, reservoirs are at 77% capacity, which is an increase of 27% from normal.

6 days ago

Officials in Washington County say measures are being taken to ensure water use meets the future gr...

Emma Keddington

Official: Water use will meet future needs in Washington County

Officials in Washington County say steps are being taken to make sure water needs meet the future growth of the county.

11 days ago

Image of the shoreline of Great Salt Lake, a body of water in Utah to which actor Leonardo DiCaprio...

Adam Small

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks up for Great Salt Lake

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio used his platform Monday to promote a petition aimed at lawmakers better helping Great Salt Lake.

12 days ago

great salt lake shore -- Multiple agencies overseeing the Great Salt Lake want any mineral-extracti...

Adam Small

Great Salt Lake agencies want mineral-extracting companies to return water to lake

The agencies want any new mineral extracting agencies to put all of the water they use in the back into the Great Salt Lake.

18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

A special turf that uses less water in Utah’s drought is growing in popularity