THE BLOG
03/03/2014 04:49 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2014

Southwestern Droughts Driving Artificial Grass Markets

Mega-droughts in California and other Southwest regions of the United States have been getting worse, and locals are determined to do something about them. Although there is much ongoing, inconclusive debate over what is causing the droughts, many residents of dried-out areas recognize the need to find man-made solutions no matter what, and that recognition is paying off for the artificial grass industry.

Quick Background On Mega-Droughts

Major droughts have been occurring on and off throughout the Southwest for more than 13 years. California, Texas and New Mexico generally have it worst, which is the case again this winter. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency on Jan. 17, and nearly a month later on Feb. 11, the United States Drought Monitor reported:

Little or no precipitation was reported in the Southwest as several locations in this region have yet to receive any measurable precipitation during 2014. The lack of appreciable winter precipitation has accumulated short-term deficits as most locations from southern California eastward into New Mexico have measured less than 25 percent of normal precipitation the past 60-days.

Now, more than a week later, the most severe drought ever recorded continues.

Who feels the drought the most?

Farmers and ranchers are the key losers when drought hits. Unlike average households or even large corporations, farms literally live or die depending on the amount of rain falling down. Farmers can use city water -- the water that flows through faucets and hoses -- but 1) that's expensive, and 2) if there isn't enough rainfall, there isn't enough city water.

Top Negative Effects of Drought:

  • Soil dries up and crops don't grow.
  • Livestock has less food to graze.
  • Local farmers and ranchers face bankruptcy.
  • Food prices increase.

These are only a few of the major economic and societal impacts of drought. Unfortunately, farmlands and ranches aren't the only outdoor areas that dry up. Homes dry up too.

Local Homeowners

The impact of a drought is often an elusive concept for Americans who have never directly experienced it. Many aspects of American life are hit by drought, yet the effects hide in the background. Landscaping is one of those aspects.

San Diego residents, for example, enjoy living where it's always sunny and 75, but their comfortable, dry weather isn't ideal for growing things. Homeowners in San Diego and similar regions experience a personal conundrum every time severe drought is announced. What should they do with their lawns?

It may seem like an unimportant question compared to farmers' enormous dilemmas, but reality is that healthy, grassy yards are valuable, and homeowners aren't quick to let them go. Grassy yards allow kids to play, families to enjoy the outdoors, and pets to enjoy nice, natural environments. They also add dollar value to homes.

So when the governor says water is scarce and needs to be conserved, grass becomes a big issue. No one wants to be that family in the neighborhood who isn't doing their part to conserve. No one wants to lose their landscaping either.

How Synthetic Grass Combats Drought and Saves Yards

During serious water shortages, state governments can sometimes implement water restrictions on local residents, such as limiting the times of day when lawns can legally be watered, but these restrictions are difficult to implement. In California, water providers number in the hundreds, all with different policies. Restrictions aren't easy to enforce anyway, and they generally only work to reduce the problem a little bit. Additional conservation efforts are always needed.

Consequently, artificial grass has become a popular solution for many families in dry regions. Residents are responding to conservation needs, and saving their yards, by taking advantage of synthetic lawns. Western states have even begun changing their landscaping laws in order to allow water-conserving choices. In Sept. 2013, for example, a Texas bill went into effect that prohibits homeowners' associations from banning water-conserving landscapes. Texas homeowners can now install synthetic grass no matter where they live in the state.

Some cities also encourage homeowners to rip out their natural grass and install artificial grass. Roseville, CA runs a "Cash for Grass" rebate program that offers $1-per-square-foot up to $1,000 to homeowners who replace grass with water-conserving landscaping. Similarly, the SoCal Water$mart Program offers $1-per-square-foot of grass removed by homeowners and business owners in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

People are jumping on board with these programs. Synthetic grass providers across drought-stricken regions are seeing increased demand for their products and installation services. Coincidentally, grass replacement rebate programs have also become increasingly popular where drought is increasingly problematic. It may seem like a small solution, but every bit of conservation counts.

To find out if there is a grass replacement rebate program in your area, contact your local water district for information.