By Eilene Lyon
While I wouldn’t say our decades-old drought is over, we had an unusual amount of moisture this past summer. We got over an inch of rain just last week. Normally August and September are what I call “brown season.” The grasses and forbs have died or gone dormant by then.
Even today, I see more green than I’m used to. On Saturday, I drove to Albuquerque through the desert. There, too, verdant views, water in the arroyos, full stock ponds, and standing water in low patches near the highway. Amazing!
One good summer will not cure our water deficiencies, though. When I reached Bernalillo, New Mexico, I crossed over a dry Rio Grande. It no longer lives up to its name. All the water flowing from the Rocky Mountains has gone to irrigation and refilling empty reservoirs.
In many desert southwest cities and towns, landscaping is already confined to rock and native drought-tolerant plants. But lawns are still common in other areas, including Durango. Even some rural homes have massive areas of turf, primarily for looks.
Yes, agriculture uses the bulk of the West’s water, but that does not absolve residential users from the need to conserve.
Lawns are purely decorative, an aesthetic imported from wetter climates. You can’t eat them and nothing else does, either, especially when they’ve been sprayed with herbicides. I’m happy to report that people are getting the message and finding better ways to landscape around their homes.
One does not need to have bare dirt or a weed patch. Here’s a sampling of other options.
The above group of photos were all taken in a two-block area in downtown Durango.
At our public library, the Durango Botanical Society has ripped out a large section of sod and replaced it with alternative landscaping. Better than concrete, all these ideas make efficient use of water and allow moisture to penetrate into the soil rather than contributing to stormwater runoff that can pollute the river and flood roadways.