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Sky Harbor completes project to replace grass for a more natural desert look

Posted: 7:39 AM, Jul 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-10 10:39:57-04
Sky Harbor Airport

PHOENIX — A new landscaping project at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will help save about $400,000 a year and save millions of gallons of water, according to airport officials.

Airport officials recently completed a project to replace all the green grass with a more natural desert look. Before, there were almost 11 acres of lush green grass around the airport. The transformation took about 18 months.

Greg Roybal with Sky Harbor says the new native desert landscape will reduce water usage at the airport by almost 5.5 million gallons a year.

"We hope it's the type of project that not only travelers, but other workers in the city, other employers can look at and say, 'We can do that, we can cut back on the water and save some money at the same time,'" said Roybal.

The new landscape includes 435 new low-water-use trees, 75 saguaros, 275 large signature cacti and about 2,900 accent plants and shrubs. They also added rock-filled gabion baskets.

"It's a very nice artistic element just because it's not just all flat. You have the hills, the little gullies and you have these beautiful baskets that are set up almost as a visual element," said Roybal.

According to airport officials, water consumption at the airport averages 30 million gallons per month, necessitating such conservation efforts like the use of low-irrigation xeriscape. Removing the grass is a big step in their goal to become more sustainable.

City leaders have echoed the need to move toward sustainability. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego says the city pledged a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases community-wide by 2025.