JeffCo H2O: The High Cost of Thirsty Lawns


We’ve all seen it before.  A sprinkler system turns on and vigorously waters the lawn – and the sidewalk – and the street.   Failing to properly adjust and time sprinkler systems can create a runoff cocktail of yard chemicals, soil, and pet waste, not to mention the amount of wasted water. It is estimated that thirsty turf consumes as much as 19.5 trillion gallons of water per year in the US.  Luckily there are some things that can be done to reduce the impact on natural resources.  Simply choosing the type of turf grass that is best suited for your yard and implementing more efficient irrigation practices can go a long way toward reducing runoff and conserving water.

Our love for lawns is rooted in history. The first managed residential grassy areas date back to the 1600s.  Today, lawns are the largest irrigated crop in the US.  According to, irrigated turf occupies more than 40 million acres of land.  But our long devotion to expansive (and expensive) lawns may have to change in the future due to the effects of lingering droughts and declining groundwater reserves.  Already the popularity of alternative landscaping techniques to conserve resources is growing.  Creating an alternative landscape involves scaling back the turf in your yard to further reduce water consumption, runoff, and yard chemical use.  Here are a few ideas to begin a transition from turf to an alternative landscape:

Start with a plan!  First identify turf areas that serve a purpose, such as recreation.  These areas will remain unchanged.

Identify the hardest to maintain turf areas as the first candidates for removal.  Areas of turf that are the least functional, or do not serve a specific purpose, are next on the removal list.

As time and money allow, replace the turf areas you have identified with easy care groundcover, water efficient plants, or consider planting trees to create natural areas that will expand as the tree canopy grows.

Over time, your yard can become a lovely, low impact, sustainable retreat.

 What’s Happening?    

Do Dah Day – May 17 – This is a great opportunity to come on out and strut your pet’s stuff in Rhodes and Caldwell Parks!  This fun, family friendly event benefits local animal charities.  Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff plans to be there with a poo toss game (yes, you read that right) to teach proper pet waste disposal.  Visit to learn more.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203


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