OGDEN -- City residents are required to keep their lawns green, but doing it this year may take vigilance.
Ogden City Ordinance 15-13-16 specifies that all residents' "plantings shall be maintained in a healthy and attractive condition" and that "lawns must be adequately watered to maintain a healthy condition."
The ordinance has been in effect for a number of years, but as it has been unseasonably hot and dry so far in 2012, keeping one's yard in good shape could take some work -- or some unconventional thinking.
Maria Krzecka says the answer for her was to get rid of her grass. She xeriscaped, a landscaping technique that reduces the need for watering.
Krzecka lives on 26th Street, just east of Harrison Boulevard, and has a yard that stands out from the rest of her neighbors'.
Using vegetation that thrives in dry climates and requires little water, Krzecka has no lawn and no sprinkler system.
"When I first moved in here, I had grass, but I just decided to take it out," she said.
"I really wanted to save water but also wanted a really nice-looking yard, so I tore out the grass and replaced it with rocks and all of these big plants that don't use a lot of water."
Krzecka said the conversion cost her less than $1,000 and the upkeep on her yard is easy.
"I really don't know why more people don't do it this way," she said. "It's easy, it looks nice, and it saves a lot of water."
Ogden resident Dan Schroeder also xeriscaped his yard, using vegetation such as sagebrush, rabbitbrush and buffalo grass.
Schroeder said the financial investment in his yard over the 14 years he has owned his home is well under $1,000.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the green-grass ordinance is in place to not only keep Ogden looking nice, but also for the benefit of property owners who have well-kept yards.
"With the age of some of our neighborhoods, things can start to look pretty bad if people aren't taking care of their yards, and we want to keep Ogden beautiful," he said.
"But it's also unfair to have one resident take meticulous care of his yard and have a neighbor who totally neglects theirs."
Caldwell said many citations for brown lawns are issued to landlords or renters and, in many ways, the ordinance is intended to motivate folks to take more ownership in the community.
"It's not meant to be a punitive thing," he said, "and we certainly are willing to work with people who may have some extenuating circumstances, like if their sprinkler system stopped working or something like that."
Schroeder also said that, in his experience, the city's code enforcement staff is rather reasonable in its interpretation of the ordinance.
Jim Stephens, from the Utah Division of Water Resources, said many other cities have similar ordinances and that it is very possible to have a green lawn without using a lot of water, even during summers that are extra hot and dry.
"The simple fact is that most people overwater their lawns," he said. "We see people water their lawns two times a day every day, and you don't need to do that."
Stephens said overwatering can cause mold, which will kill grass just like not watering at all would.
Watering at dawn and dusk and knowing how to properly use fertilizer can go a long way in keeping grass green, Stephens said.
"It might take a little extra care and require people to be a little more vigilant, but you can keep your lawn green this summer without using a ton of water."