Grass: America’s Largest Irrigated Crop
Each year, we drench our lawns with enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay! That makes grass – not corn – America’s largest irrigated crop. Our nation’s lawns now cover an area larger than New York State and each year, we use about 2.4 million metric tons of fertilizer just to maintain them. When there is too much fertilizer on our lawns, essential nutrients are easily washed away by sprinklers and rainstorms. When these nutrients enter storm drains and water bodies, they often become one of the most harmful sources of water pollution in the United States.
Viewer Tip: Luckily, you can address this problem simply by watering your lawn in different ways. Here are two simple steps you can follow to save money, conserve water and protect water quality.
- Use a Soaker Hose – these hoses are lined with thousands of tiny holes, allowing them to leach water into the soil at a slower rate than a normal hose or sprinkler.
- Use a Rain Barrel – capture and save some of that free rainwater and use to water your lawn or garden later. Remember to check local regulations about rain water collection before installing a barrel.
(Sources: Milesi, Cristina et al. 2005, “Mapping and Modeling the Biogeochemical Cycling of Turf Grasses in the United States,” Environmental Management, 36:3, 426-438; Chesapeake Bay Program, 2012, “Fact & Figures,” Accessed Online July 12, 2012, http://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/bay101/facts; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Act: In Your Yard,” Accessed Online May 3, 2012, http://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/wahtyoucando/act_inyard.html; Noer, Michael, “The Green American Dream,” Forbes.com, July 24, 2008, Accessed Online July 12, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/24/lawns-grass-america-tech-paperplastic08-cx_mn_0724lawn.html)