UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA

Artificial Turf

Garden Help > Lawn, Trees, & Shrubs

In the past, artificial turf was marketed as an environmentally conscious alternative to lawns due to lower water consumption and no need for weekly maintenance. Years of installations have shown that it's more complex than that. Here is a list of pros and cons of artificial turf that gives a more balanced perspective.

Pros and cons of artificial turf


  • Requires less water than natural grass lawns
  • Does not need regular mowing, fertilizing, or horticultural maintenance
  • Provides a consistent playing/recreational surface regardless of weather
  • No concerns about brown spots, uneven growth, or muddy areas
  • Potential cost savings over time from reduced lawn care and water usage


  • Higher upfront installation cost compared to sod or seeding
  • Can get very hot in direct sunlight, posing safety risks
  • Does not remove carbon dioxide from the air like natural plants
  • Materials break down over time, requiring replacement every 8–15 years
  • Used artificial turf goes into landfills at end of life cycle
  • Does not support biodiversity like insects, worms, or soil microbes
  • Concerns about toxic chemicals leaching over time
  • Can inhibit natural drainage and promote runoff
  • Weeds and moss can still grow through artificial turf
  • Installation mistakes can lead to dips, bumps, and uneven surfaces
  • If damaged, can't repair itself (i.e., can't regrow like plants)

Climate impact

As our climate continues to change, so does awareness of the need for carbon sequestration in the soil, with the goal of limiting CO2 in the atmosphere. Living plants use carbon dioxide to grow, and transfer the carbon into the soil via the microbes living around the roots of the plants. Living plants support biodiversity with benefits for birds, insects, and earthworms, as well as the soil microbes. Laying artificial turf over the soil inhibits or prevents any carbon being removed from the environment.

Legislation and water agency policies

California legislation passed in October 2023 allows cities and counties to ban the installation of artificial turf. Valley Water does not offer rebates for replacing lawn with synthetic grass.

Low water turf and alternatives

Examples of low-water turfs, lawn alternatives, and drought tolerant landscaping can be viewed at some of our demonstration gardens.

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