WEST JORDAN, Utah — The state of Utah is increasing the amount of incentives being offered to convince you to get rid of lawn you don't use.

On Monday, the latest round of turf buyback incentives were unveiled. Many local water districts will offer $3 a square foot for people to get rid of "nonfunctional turf," which is lawn that people don't really use.

"It uses up too much water and they can replace it with trees and shrubs and still have a nice yard," said Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, who co-sponsored the bill in the Utah State Legislature to increase incentives for turf.

Lawmakers budgeted $13 million for the effort this year, designed to help in drought and with saving the Great Salt Lake. Water policy makers are quick to point out they're not targeting all grass. For example, if someone has a backyard for kids and pets to be in, it's OK. Nonfunctional turf is stuff that people only use to mow it and that's pretty much it.

Many communities are trying to set an example when it comes to getting rid of nonfunctional turf. Washington City was among many who recently tore out about 100,000 square feet of nonfunctional turf from public areas. At the same time, Mayor Kress Staheli said his community passed some of the strictest lawn ordinances in the state.

"We’ve said on new construction we’re limiting the percentage of grass to 8% of the lot size," he said, adding that they banned nonfunctional turf at businesses and industrial sites.

Governor Spencer Cox said he has been impressed by how many Utahns are getting rid of lawns and replacing them with water-friendly landscaping without incentives from the state. People are doing it because they want to.

"This is a total change in the paradigm of Utah and it’s exciting to see more and more people understanding that we can’t have as much grass as we used to have," Gov. Cox told FOX 13 News.

Noting Utah's current situation with a record-breaking snowpack and the potential for flooding, the governor said it was still no time to ignore the drought the state remains in.

"We've been given a gift this year, let’s not squander it," the governor said. "Let’s continue to conserve."

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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