As San Diego County heads into summer and the peak season for water use, regional water-saving programs are growing thanks to two pieces of good news – a $1 increase in the amount offered per square foot for replacing turf grass, and a major boost in grant funding to extend the San Diego County Water Authority’s turf replacement program.
Residents, businesses, homeowner associations and public agencies in San Diego County are now eligible for rebates of up to $3.50 per square foot from regional programs for replacing turf grass with water-efficient landscaping options more suited to the county’s semi-arid climate.
In addition, the Water Authority recently secured more than $500,000 for its WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program through grants from the state Department of Water Resources. The grants came from the Integrated Regional Water Management program authorized under Proposition 50 and Proposition 84.
“The increase in turf replacement rebates and additional money for our rebate program create a great opportunity to defray the cost of landscape upgrades that will increase the region’s water savings,” said Jeff Stephenson, a principal water resources specialist for the Water Authority. “Residents can improve the curb appeal of their homes and help the region respond to serious drought conditions at the same time.”
Water conservation has taken on added importance as a result of the California’s current drought. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought-related state of emergency Jan. 17 and asked for voluntary water conservation statewide. On Feb. 13, the Water Authority’s Board formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan and approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance. In April, the Water Authority launched an outreach campaign – “When in Drought: Save every day, every way.” – to promote voluntary water conservation efforts, thank residents and businesses for saving water, provide a one-stop resource for drought-related information in San Diego County, and raise awareness about efforts by the region’s water agencies to make the region less vulnerable to water supply shortages. For more information, go to www.whenindrought.org.
Outdoor water use is a focal point of regional conservation efforts because about half of the water used at the typical home is for landscaping. WaterSmart landscapes can cut outdoor water use by up to 70 percent through a combination of plant selection and irrigation technology. Turf replacement programs are designed to help residents, businesses and public agencies mitigate costs and other obstacles to making that conversion.
Turf replacement rebates of up to $3.50 per square foot are the result of programs offered by the Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The Water Authority program offers $1.50 per square foot. In May, MWD increased its incentive from $1 to $2 per square foot for its SoCal Water$mart Turf Removal Program.
Water Authority and MWD rebates can be combined, though they require separate applications, and they include some differing requirements and limits. Both programs require participants to register and be approved for participation before removing turf grass. Details about the Water Authority’s program and a link to MWD’s program are at turfreplacement.watersmartsd.org/.
“A lot of people don’t really want their lawn, but they don’t know what else to do with their yard,” Stephenson said. “We offer lots of opportunities to help homeowners find a new look that will help stretch our limited water supplies.”
Resources include classes designed to teach customers how to install WaterSmart landscapes and plant fairs in partnership with The Home Depot that offer discounts on climate-appropriate plants. For saving water indoors, the Water Authority offers rebates for highly efficient toilets and clothes washers. Go to the Water Authority’s conservation website, www.WaterSmartSD.org, for details about those programs and others.