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  • Richard Bonetti

A Brown Lawn Movement in Ashland

Updated: May 9


Medford Water Commission and other organizations throughout North America are observing Drinking Water Week, May 1-7, 2022. "To commemorate the week, water utilities, water organizations, government entities, environmental advocates, schools and others throughout North America and beyond are encouraging consumers to learn more about the importance of water and water infrastructure, especially in times of crisis."

Medford gets its potable water from the Rogue River watershed, which include the Big Butte Springs Watershed (see map above.). Lost Creek Lake, which captures Rogue River water primarily for flood control and fish habitat, has reached 72% of capacity. This means that recent rains will allow release of sufficient cold water from the Lake to preserve fish habitat and provide drinking water to those in the service area..


Meanwhile, farms in the Rogue Valley are preparing for a very dry summer, particularly those served by the Talent Irrigation District in the Bear Creek Watershed. Emigrant Lake is only 20% full; Hyatt is 21% full; and Howard Prairie is only 15% full.


At the TID Board of Directors regular board meeting held on May 3, 2022 "there was lengthy discussion on the water supply and potential start date for the irrigation season. The water supply is approximately 3,000-acre feet below where it was on this date last year. The total water supply is at 19,201-acre feet, or 17% of capacity. We currently have a little over 30 days of water in storage to deliver this summer."


The extended drought in Rogue Valley, is visible evidence that the climate is changing due to global warming. This has prompted some in Ashland to propose a "brown lawn movement"

When it comes to yards, green isn’t always green (for the environment).

Turf grasses are the most irrigated crop in the U.S. so as the climate changes and droughts continue, brown lawns will become more common. The LA Times reported on April 22, 2022 "Southern California residents are bracing for less water and many brown lawns as drought and climate change leave a large swath of the region with a growing water shortage. In a remarkable indication of drought severity, officials with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have declared a first-of-its-kind action limiting outdoor water use to one day a week for nearly 6 million residents." New restrictions take effect June 1, 2022.

In addition to heavy water usage, lawns are also problematic for those of us concerned about mitigating global climate change because of lawn maintenance practices (usually involving use of polluting two and four stroke mower engines and the heavy use of fertilizers and chemical weed control.)

But even better than allowing lawns to turn seasonally brown is the notion of replacing turf with native plants, better adapted to a warming climate. Some are even planting vegetable gardens in their front yard. There are many inspiring stories of people who believe that humans can fight climate change and help repair the world right where they live.

“People need something more: To reconnect with nature and experience the sort of spiritual transcendence he feels in a forest, or on a mountain, or amid the bounty of his own yard. It’s a feeling that, for him, is akin to feeling close to God... People have to love the Earth before they save it,” So love is the key. We don’t do doomsday stuff.” ~ Bill Jacobs

A No-Mow Movement is a conservation initiative intended to create a healthy and sustainable ecosystem,.

There is a new Interfaith Climate Action Team forming in Rogue Valley under the leadership of Bob Morse. If you are interested in participating contact Bob at morse@mind.net The group is encouraging places of worship in the Rogue Valley take action this summer regarding lawns: "Brown is the New Green." by stopping watering and let their turf turn brown.


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