Napa, California has a new “Cash for Grass” program–the city is offering $500 to local residents willing to swap their thirsty lawns for succulents, cacti or other low-water plants. If a city is willing to pay citizens to jettison their lawns, that means lawn irrigation is a real water conservation problem, right? For the sake of the environment, should you rip out your lawn too? The answer is, it depends. Here are a couple of important factors to consider.

  1. Where do you live? Watering your lawn is no big deal if you live in a place where the rain waters it for you. Think about rolling Irish hills. It’s not like they have sprinkling systems. It’s also less problematic if you live in an area with a relatively short growing season. But, let’s say you live in an arid climate. Then let’s also say that the growing season is also practically year round. Suddenly, your lawn is a serious water hog.
  2. How efficiently are you watering? There are smart ways to water, no matter where you live. Make sure your sprinkling system is leak-free. Make sure you’re watering in the morning, so you’re not losing precious water to evaporation. And don’t overwater. A good soak two or three times a week is better for your lawn and the local water supply than watering every day.

If you live in a water-strapped community, rest assured astroturf is far from your only option. There are plenty of beautiful alternatives to lawns. Just make sure to follow through and actually transition over to something else. After all, even the “Cash for Grass” program has a caveat: no cash for dead grass.