NewsUtah Drought


Utah churches get called to repentance over water-hogging lawns

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 19:44:08-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah — As she reviews her community's ordinances and policies to be more water-wise, St. George Mayor Michele Randall has been pushing to ditch lawns for drought-friendly landscaping.

The city is removing more than 500,000 acre feet of turf because it hogs water. Golf courses, she said, are making landscape changes and she's said no new courses because of their water demands.

"We want to keep our plants. We want to keep our trees and we want to keep a lot of our grass. But we do not have to have grass like we have," Mayor Randall said in an interview with FOX 13. "Businesses, schools, we’re working with the school district, and we’re hoping the churches come on board, too, because the churches have a lot of grass nobody uses."

Mayor Randall said it is something she has noticed in her community. Churches sometimes have lush, green lawns that nobody uses or it's utilized once a week for services.

"They don’t use the lawns. Unless you kind of just want to get out of church and go sit somewhere," she said. "But we are working with them to ask them to please come on board with this. They know the conditions we’re in in St. George."

Online, social media users have occasionally criticized church lawns as Utahns have been asked to dramatically cut water use in the state's ongoing drought emergency. Various faith groups insist they are making changes.

FOX 13 documented churches on Friday with different landscaping approaches. Desert Ridge Baptist Church was letting its lawn brown. St. George Catholic Church had a small lawn that had some brown spots. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said statewide, churches were heeding the recommendations to cut watering to twice a week (three times in southern Utah) and parishes were already exploring ways to implement xeriscaping.

A Jehovah's Witness chapel and Grace Episcopal Church in St. George both had xeriscaping.

"The Episcopal Diocese of Utah is deeply committed to sustainability and water conservation, especially during this historic drought. The Episcopal Church holds that the Care of Creation which includes water conversation is one of three priorities of the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Utah fully supports and urges all efforts to conserve this precious resource," Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah said in a statement to FOX 13.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the dominant faith in Utah, has some chapels with large lawns. Across the state, some chapels have lawns that are browner than others. But the faith said in a statement it was addressing the drought.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that the earth was divinely created and that we are to be stewards over all blessings the Lord has given us. We have reduced water usage for Temple Square landscaping. We are following the State's recommendations to only water twice a week," the church said in a statement to FOX 13.

"The Church has installed 'waterwise' irrigation systems since the early 2000s in all new facilities, and we continue to retrofit older systems. We have adjusted these and all of our watering schedules to meet state guidelines. We also continue to personally monitor the conditions on our properties. Church Historic Sites located in regions affected by drought have reduced their water usage by one third."

Mayor Randall said she has observed chapels making noticeable changes.

"Driving by some of the churches in St. George right now they’re cutting back on some of the watering," she said. "Because the grass isn’t looking too great right now."