Layton City sets limits on turf grass, makes other water-saving changes

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Traffic passes grassy landscape on Green Valley Parkway on Friday, April 9, 2021, in suburban Henderson, Nev. Las Vegas, a desert city built on a reputation for excess, wants to become a model for restraint with a first-in-the-nation policy limiting water use by banning grass that nobody walks on. Las Vegas area water officials are asking the state Legislature to pass a law banning “non-functional turf.” (AP Photo/Ken Ritter)

LAYTON, Utah (ABC4) – Did you know watering your lawn as little as one less time per week can save as much as 3,000 gallons of water?

Layton City’s new landscape ordinance amendment focuses largely on using more drought resistant landscaping, eliminating the need to maintain ornamental grass in new developments, with the exception of single-family homes.

“The ordinance has been in the works for a number of years,” Chad Wilkinson, Community and Economic Development Director of Layton City, says.

“So this was not necessarily about any specific water condition other than we realized that we live in a desert. This is an arid climate, and then the responsible thing to do is to look at ways to conserve water…,” he tells ABC4.

The amendment puts in place numerous new requirements aimed at saving water. It sets a maximum allowance of turfgrass permitted on new commercial, industrial, multifamily residential developments, and masterplan residential communities, in place of what used to be a minimum amount.

Commercial, industrial, and multifamily residential properties are allowed a maximum of 15% of the site’s landscaping to be made up of turfgrass. For master-planned communities, the maximum amount of turfgrass is slightly higher at 35%.

“It’s bumped up slightly because we recognized the need for some recreational open space… that might have a place for someone to roll a ball or play frisbee,” Wilkinson says.

The focus of the amendment is to remove impediments to installing drought resistant landscaping.

“The idea is that you still have a significant amount of landscaping. It would just be landscaping that requires less water use, so drought-resistant, native plants. With the sprinkler systems, that would move away from pop-up sprinklers or other types of overhead sprinklers to more of a drip irrigation system that would conserve more water,” Wilkinson explains.

The amendment also adds requirements for sprinklers. For example, turf is prohibited in areas of less than eight feet in width to prevent water from irrigation systems ending up on sidewalks rather than grass.

Wilkinson says he anticipates eliminating turf will save a significant amount of water. Though the changes do not apply to single-family homes, the city has made recommendations for these developments, Wilkinson tells ABC4.

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