Many areas worldwide experience shortages of fresh water and/or severe problems with contaminated water supplies. At the same time, populations of people use significant amounts of water to create unnatural green lawns through daily watering and overuse of fertilizers. In contrast, Nature’s rainfall is concentrated along or near the equator; daily rain is rare in most other global areas. Unnatural and unsustainable lawns have been cultivated in desert areas like Las Vegas. This city is now facing a water crisis and reverting back to natural landscaping due to the low water level of Lake Mead, which supplies 90% of the city’s water.
A law passed last year in Nevada prohibits the growth and watering of grass in nonfunctional areas. Past efforts to discourage grass and encourage the development of desert plants proved unsuccessful; people mostly chose green grass over freshwater protections. As a result, regulations have been put in place to slow the declining freshwater supply. An estimated 3900 acres of grass will be removed, which translates into a savings of nearly 10 billion gallons of water each year.
In the meantime, sprinkler systems continue to be popular among privileged landowners who can afford the expense of daily watering and additional mowing. The addiction to unnatural green lawns is harmful to the environment and suggests less concern for nature’s health. For those who desire a very green lawn, the United States EPA put together a document called “Greenscaping, the easier way to a greener, healthier lawn.” (https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2014-04/documents/greenscaping_-_the_easy_way_to_a_greener_healthier_yard.pdf) Point 3 is to practice smart watering.
“Loving God, look in mercy on your people living in drylands, and struggling to survive without access to safe drinking water. Forgive our selfishness in life and our misuse of our natural resources. We commit ourselves to value and care for your gifts to us.” Caritas Australia
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.