West Valley City legalizes artificial turf in Utah’s drought emergency

It is Utah’s second largest city to allow for the fake grass.

(FOX 13) An aerial shot of West Valley City homes as the drought takes a toll on lawns.

Outside City Hall, some patches of grass look a little different than others.

Look closely, and you’ll see it’s not real grass. West Valley City replaced some lawn around City Hall with artificial turf as an experiment.

“Make it a demo project, this is the right way to do it. It looks good,” West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle told FOX 13 News. “This has been in place for I want to say, like, six months. One of the things we wanted to do is test it through the winter, see how it would wear. It’s worn very well. We’re pretty happy.”

Last month, the West Valley City Council voted to enact an ordinance legalizing artificial turf. It was never explicitly prohibited, but leaders of Utah’s second largest city have decided to give it their blessing. The ordinance requires “green lifelike individual blades of grass that emulate natural turf in look and color, have a minimum pile height of 1.5 inches, and have a minimum face weight of fifty ounces per square yard.”

“The minimum pile height for high traffic areas such as playgrounds may be reduced to 1.25 inches,” the ordinance adds.

Some communities still have restrictions on artificial grasses. A man in Saratoga Springs ran afoul of city code when he installed it on his front lawn. The city’s ordinances allow it for backyard use only.

Allowing artificial turf is one of many options cities are now considering to save water in Utah’s ongoing drought emergency, said Cameron Diehl, the executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

“There are other cities from St. George to Logan that are examining their landscaping ordinances,” he said in an interview with FOX 13 News.

Many cities and towns are getting rid of park strips and moving from requiring a “minimum” amount of lawn to a “maximum allowed.” Others are embracing “local-scaping,” using plants and grasses more native to their part of the state.

This year, the Utah State Legislature passed a series of water conservation laws. One bans cities from prohibiting water-wise landscaping and xeriscaping.

“The other thing the legislature did this year, with the support of the League of Cities and Towns, we actually brought legislation to them saying as part of a city’s general plan, a city needs to proactively plan for water conservation,” Diehl said.

More city councils will start unveiling landscaping ordinances in the coming weeks and months, he added.

At West Valley City Hall, residents can stop by and feel the difference between the artificial turf and real grass nearby.

“The (artificial) turf has gotten better from a quality standpoint and as a consumer product standpoint,” Pyle said.

It’s easy to maintain and requires no water, he added.

“Save some water and, as we know, that’s going to go up expense-wise and availability-wise, right? So why not be looking at this kind of an option?”

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org