Southern California water board replenishes turf-removal rebate fund

Hardscape, coupled with a variety of drought-resistant plants, replace the lawn at this Southern California homeHardscape, coupled with a variety of drought-resistant plants, replace the lawn at this Southern California home

In an effort to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a 25-percent reduction in water use across the state, California residents are removing water-guzzling turf in favor of more drought-tolerant landscapes. And more and more of them are taking advantage of rebate programs offered by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provides drinking water to nearly 19 million people in six Southern California counties.

The MWD residential turf-removal rebate program has been so popular, its budget of $100 million was depleted earlier this month, prompting its board of directors this week to increase funding for conservation programs by $350 million. The increase brings the MWD’s two-year conservation budget to $450 million, making it the nation’s largest turf-removal and water conservation program.

The MWD estimates the program will generate enough water savings to nearly fill the region’s largest reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, over the next decade. The agency also predicts the removal of approximately 175 million square feet of lawn through the program – more than three times the governor’s goal for the entire state.

In addition to increasing funding, the MWD board also made changes to the way turf-removal rebates are calculated by establishing tiers based on the amount of turf being removed. Residential customers can receive $2 per square foot for up to 3,000 square feet of turf removed, or as much as $6,000. Commercial and other non-residential applicants are eligible for a turf-removal incentive of $1 per square foot up to a total annual limit of $25,000 per property.

“Our goal,” says Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board, “is to equitably provide rebate funds to as many people as possible and lock in permanent changes in water use by transforming to drought-tolerant landscapes that better fit our Mediterranean climate.”

Record says the board’s decision to increase funding for the rebate program “finds the sweet spot between capitalizing on historic interest in turf removal and having a sustainable conservation rebate program.”

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