Phoenix Fables

Winter grass, we have our droughts

In a month or so, some people of the Phoenix Valley will cut their Bermuda grass to the nub and plant their rye for winter. Selfish pricks.

I’d set their lawns on fire, but it would take more water to put it out…

( it’s dangerous, and stupid and illegal – but you get the metaphor).

This feeling is nothing new to me. I’ve hated all forms of non-smokeable grass since 1971, I was forced to mow an acre of it for no money for a decade.

But I left my original enslavers home (the parents) and moved to Phoenix. 7 inches of rain a year — one of the hottest cities on earth. How could it possibly have grass?

But the rest of my midwestern brethren, who followed the air conditioning, the sun and the jobs in the 1980’s – 2000’s, brought their fucking lawns with them. They covered the farmland with 1-10 houses per acre. Red tiles roofs with swimming pools in the back and lawns all over.

Some homeowner’s association even “MANDATED” lawns. We couldn’t have our desert oasis looking like the Dirty T (Tucson).

Arial footage of parts of the Valley look like the midwest with wider streets and fewer trees.

I was part of the problem. I overcame my hatred of grass from 1986-2016 thanks to the love of lawns from my new enslaver (the wife). But now all my grass is plastic, and I can preach like an AA sponsor bitching about tequila.

Sure, we all felt good about our desert lawns… there’s plenty of water, they said. We dammed the rivers and filled the lakes. The Salt, the Verde and the Colorado rivers would keep us in fresh water for landscaping for hundreds of years, they said.

Farming takes so much water, every new home was “conservation”. The Valley grew 5 times as many people from 1950’s to 2020’s, but we are using about the same amount of water.

More than 70-percent of Arizona’s water goes to farms. Fewer farms, more water.

Sure grass is a water “pig”. It takes more water to have a lawn for 5 years than it does to build a swimming pool and keep it full.

But lawns take a lot less water than alfalfa, cotton or watermelons — and that shit grows like crazy in the long sunny days of an Arizona summer.

What’s a little lawn going to do?

Hell, the state leased its land to the Saudi’s with unlimited water rights, so they can grow alfalfa here and ship it halfway around the world to feed Arabia’s dairy cows. The land is only $25 an acre to lease. The water is free — we don’t even have a meter on the wells to know how much they are using…could be $3-$4 million per year worth of water.

But this feeling of “plenty” is premised on a lie.

In the 1920’s, they over-estimated the flow of the Colorado. They built the dams, spent billions on the CAP canal to run water 300 miles across the state. It worked great for 50 years. Then came the drought.

Down goes Lake Mead.

Just one example of falling water from “space.” Photo from NASA.

Lake Powell may soon be just a mud puddle.

You should see the all the images from here.

In 2022-23, Arizona will take a 20-percent cut in it’s water from the Colorado. That adds up to about a 10-percent cut in water use for the whole state. But water doesn’t go everywhere evenly, so central Az farmers, some cities and Tucson will take the biggest hits. It’s not looking good for 2024 or 2025.

Of course, Phoenix and Tucson have been “banking” Colorado River water for decades. Dumping water in holes to replenish the underground water we drew down from 1940-1980. Of course, that hasn’t worked as well as people hoped. Water moves underground and people at the “edges” have been sucking it out from under the cities.

When people ask me, how can all those people live in the desert. The answer is space. We don’t have a lot of water, but we have a lot of land. Essentially, the two biggest cities in Az have been sponges soaking in all the water from 350 miles away and leaving the forests, small towns and outer counties in the dust.

But these transfers and scarcity create perversity. Many users won’t cut their allocations for fear they would never see that water again. “Use it or lose it” is real. Others will want to make hay while the water flows and worry about bankruptcy later.

Others will want to ride out the drought and hope for snow and rain to come next year. Pools, canals and farm infrastructure can bake to death in a few dry months and have to be completely rebuilt when the water returns (if it returns).

Others are just selfish pricks and don’t care if the rest of us go to hell in a hand basket.

But just because others are wasting water doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole too.

That brings us to rye grass. Before I moved to the desert, I never heard of “winter grass.” Winter came, grass “died.” Wait for the sun and spring to turn green again.

But not here. When the nighttime temperature gets below 75 (about mid September) drop some seeds and cow shit on a Bermuda lawn, sprinkle it with water 3 times a day, and it will be beautiful dark green until April.

Stole the image from

Looks good. I’ve done it. Feels good. Like you are fighting back the brown depression of dead grass and filling your space with “new life” with a handful of “magic” seeds.

But it is the worst kind of fucking waste. It is robbing future generations of water for drinking, bathing and growing food just so you can feel good for a few months.

I’m not calling for government mandates and making rye grass illegal… I’m calling for shaming these seedy bastards. It’s immoral. If you are thinking about overseeing, STOP IT.

Save yourself the effort and save us the 10,000 gallons of water it takes to make that shit grow.

While you are at it, think about ripping out your Bermuda grass and covering it with fake grass, or gravel or just letting it go back to the natural dirt and sand it should have always been.

If you want to see green, look up – not down. Don’t be a selfish prick. Skip the rye grass, plant trees.

5 replies »

  1. It’s damn stupid to have a lawn, in my view. The beautiful arid desert gives every self-respecting man a valid excuse to not have a lawn. Rather, he can plant a cactus garden, arrange a few ornate rocks and pebbles here and there, then dust off his hands and never do yardwork again, except some occasional weeding.

    And I agree, that it’s a big damn, unnecessary waste of water, too.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.