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IN RESPONSE: Green grass isn’t Southern Nevada’s problem

The top headline in the March 11 Review-Journal — “LV buying frenzy” — encapsulates our water problem. Grass is not our problem, unfettered growth is.

Disenfranchised Californians moving to Las Vegas are buying up our housing because it is cheap compared with Los Angeles and San Francisco. Developers and the Bureau of Land Management are only too happy to accommodate them. The BLM sells our country’s public land to private developers who build projects featuring housing that is unaffordable to our local working population. In the process, this stresses our environmental and governmental systems — water, air quality, schools and infrastructure.

Grass is critical, not just for its aesthetic value but for at least six health reasons:

■ Air quality: Penn State University states in “The Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass and Their Impact on the Greenhouse Effect” that the “strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas.” Just 2,500 square feet produces enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. An average-sized lawn captures as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year.

■ Pollution filter: Studies have found the noise absorptive capacity of turfgrass is a significant part of how landscapes are effective in reducing noise pollution.

■ Stormwater management. Landscaped areas reduce pollutants from leaching through the soil into the water supply or from entering surface water runoff. Turfgrasses filter stormwater excess and reduce sediment and pollutants from entering water bodies.

■ Heat. Environmental heating is reduced by turfgrass. On a hot summer day, a well-maintained turfgrass area will be at least 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil: Read: Xeriscape.

■ Wellness and stress. Green spaces have been shown to improve wellness and reduce stress. A study published in “Environment and Behavior” indicated that green spaces can enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life’s stress.

■ Therapeutic. The care of turfgrass and plants can have a therapeutic effect and is included in many rehabilitation programs and aid in the recovery of disabled people and help the elderly stay mobile

So how to reduce our water demand and meet our growth pressure? First, stop all sales of BLM land for real estate development that benefit only wealthy migrants and instead promote and incentivize high-density, in-fill real estate development providing housing opportunity for our working population.

Secondly, address the white elephant in the room: swimming pools. Research by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers found that a residential pool will lose from three-quarters of an inch to an inch of water a day. So a 30-foot by 20-foot pool evaporates 134,000 gallons of water per year or 41 percent of an acre-foot.

So let’s adopt the following: Set a limit on permitted surface area and volume of pools. Require all new pools to be fitted with covers. And, finally, only issue a new pool permit against the removal of an existing pool. This creates a market for pool permits. This limits the number of new pools and minimizes water loss.

As a footnote, building a 20-foot by 30-foot pool in your yard and removing the turf will net you a turf removal check of $1,800 and let you waste 134,000 gallons of water. I ask the Southern Nevada Water Authority: Where is the logic in this?

Stacy Standley writes from Las Vegas.

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