When it comes down to a battle between water use and turfgrass, turfgrass will lose, especially when cash-strapped cities start cutting maintenance budgets too.
That’s basically the deal in Orlando, FL, the self-proclaimed “City Beautiful,” where next month workers will begin removing about 1 million sq. ft. of St. Augustine turf from city right-of-ways, reported WFTV-9 recently. The city is replacing the St. Augustine with Bahiagrass, a common lawn grass in Florida, but one that’s almost universally considered to be inferior to St. Augustine.
A city official, in the WFTV news video, says the city will save more than $300,000 a year in water and maintenance costs by removing the St. Augustine. He says the city was using 52 million gallons of water annually to keep the St. Augustine healthy but it will count on Mother Nature to water the Bahia, allowing the city to recover the estimated $1 million cost of the conversion in about three years.
Veteran Orlando-area landscaper John Stires is quoted on the news video as describing the conversion as “a huge waste of money.”
Turfgrass is being scrutinized by the U.S. EPA in its WaterSense program (more about this in future blogs), and by decision-makers at almost every level of government, and sometimes without consulting with turfgrass experts or experienced plant people and landscapers.
We don’t know if this is the case with the Orlando decision, but there seems to be a lot of knee-jerk decisions being made to encourage property owners to remove or limit turfgrass on home lawns and commercial properties. In our opinion most of these decisions are being floated with too little thought to the consequences in terms of, not only aesthetics but urban cooling, dust abatement, erosion prevention, and the host of other environmental benefits turfgrass provides to our urban environments. — LM Edit Team