A Potentially Destructive Duo: El Niño + Artificial Turf

Although not-Anaheim specific, the drought affects Anaheim as much as anyplace else, and so we share with our readers this editorial submission from Mr. John W. Spring of Anaheim:

A Potentially Destructive Duo: El Niño + Artificial Turf

John W. Spring

State and local officials have encouraged taking drastic measures to save water, but there are potential and negative consequences when changing the landscape of homes from lawns and gardens to artificial turf. Using artificial turf may destabilize the land, present a potential legal liability, threaten the stability of adjoining real estate, and cause severe damage to existing main structures.

The Mediterranean arid and semiarid climate, soils, and landforms in southern California differ from the elements found in humid regions of the United States. When it rains here, hard rocks during dry and hot weather become mud-like substances lacking durability.

Almost all types of artificial turf have only one function: to provide a cosmetic substitute for real grass. Using cacti and sand as an alternative landscape may look like a miniature desert, but sand does not hold much moisture during a heavy rain. Succulents such as honeysuckle or ice plant improve the means to absorb moisture, but as a general rule, cactus cannot absorb sufficient moisture to prevent a heavy runoff or a direct downward percolation. A heavy rain can decompose the soil beneath a home’s concrete foundation, potentially causing severe damage to the main structure.

The slopes of most hills and mountains in southern California are more like cliffs or precipices. Arid and semiarid climate fashions a cutting edge to soils, rocks, and landforms because of different chemical and physical characteristics. Even the natural vegetation here is different. When artificial turf replaces landscapes, a substitution not yet established as a reliable means for protecting homes, homeowners may pay a huge restoration price for the amount of water saved.

Why have political leaders demanded such drastic cutbacks in the amount of water used, instead recommending an unvalidated alternative that potentially damages homes? Few politicians or academicians are down-to-earth persons. Too many decisions these days are based upon their affect on future political careers. When Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed to get use to “Brown lawns” and regard green grass as a thing of the past, his statement is based more on force than fact. The rainfall in California later this year will validate the governor’s endorsement of brown grass and draconian water rationing—or El Niño will damage the foundation of many homes with artificial turf throughout southern California.

A reading of Michael Salzman’s Primary Water, a book published in 1960, would provide Brown with a potential and long-term solution to California’s water crisis: Retrieve water from inside the crystalline rock strata of the Earth’s crust. Redirecting Brown’s attention is difficult because he is hell-bent on spending $100,000,000,000 of taxpayers’ dollars to build a bullet train that will likely be outdated by the year it is completed.


  1. Thanks for an uninterrupted string of nonsense.

    • Agreed.

      That last sentence excluded, of course.

      Come on, Matt– seriously? Your house is gonna fall down because you ripped your lawn out?

      • Gosh, I’m sorry, Ryan. How dare I publish a submission from an Anaheim resident without getting clearance from you.

        I don’t have an opinion one way or another on Mr. Spring’s contention. If you do, then debunk it instead of taking it out on me.

  2. Douglas Johnson

    “Sand does not hold much moisture during a heavy rain.” Even if we overlook the poorly-written, half-completed thought of this sentence (and most other sentences) in this bizarre writing, these claims make no sense.

    I think the author’s trying to say that sand (and gravel, and plastic sheeting, and the turf) are less effective erosion guards on hillsides than real grass. But keep in mind I’m guessing about that, because the author never actually says that. To make any sense, one would have to believe than the root structure of grass is an effective erosion control. First, this means this article only applies to hillside properties, and has no relevance to the rest of Anaheim. Second, when’s the last time you saw grass used for erosion control? It’s extremely rare, if ever, because the watering requirements of natural turf mean pouring water down the hillside where you’re trying to (according to this author) prevent erosion. That sounds pretty counter-productive to me.

    And sand doesn’t have to hold the water — it just slows down the rate at which the underlying ground needs to absorb the rain. And I suspect, but don’t know, that the weed barrier probably ensures that excessive rain is guided down the hill to the gutters or drains, rather than deposited into the ground — which sound to this amateur like exactly what all erosion control measures are trying to do.

    I’m no landscape architect or hillside engineer, so I welcome being corrected by someone who is who says natural grass is an effective erosion prevention tool, but short of that I think this bizarre article is completely wrong.

  3. We cannot really compare artificial turf and real grass because they are completely different. If all the grass in the world has been stripped away and replaced with artificial turf, then we may have a problem. But I feel that if individual households, commercial premises and childcare centres use them in their premises, then there should be no problem.

  4. I agree with all your above mentioned information about artificial turf.

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