Riverside puts more money in turf-removal rebate program

Riverside’s turf removal rebate program has been revived, allowing residents to swap out their lawns for xeriscaping. Photo: TurfTerminators.comRiverside’s turf removal rebate program has been revived, allowing residents to swap out their lawns for xeriscaping.
Photo: TurfTerminators.com

They city of Riverside, California, is putting another $1.5 million into its turf-removal rebate program, which ran out of money in May.

Riverside area businesses and residents already have received almost $5 million in rebates as an incentive to replace their lawns with drought-friendly landscaping.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) supplied about $4 million of the rebate funds and reimbursed the city on Tuesday, Sept. 22, according to The Press Enterprise.

The money that the city council has voted to use will come from water fund reserves. For residential landscapes, $800,000 has been set aside while $300,000 is available for businesses. The rest of the money will be used to demonstrate water-conserving landscape techniques.

Southern California’s turf rebate program has been available for years, but it was not until April of this year, when Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the entire state to reduce its water usage by 25 percent, that attention to the rebate program surged.

The MWD devoted $390 million to turf rebates, but those funds were exhausted quickly. When the water district’s board saw how quickly the money was being used up, it added a cap of 25,000 square feet for business and 3,000 square feet for homeowners; however, that action didn’t come until May, after much of the money was already spent. The program came to an end in July.

Now there is the question of whether Southern Californians who cashed in will see their rebate checks taxed. According to the Los Angeles Times, the MWD has begun collecting tax identification numbers for those who received more that $600 in rebates.

Currently more than 24,000 homeowners have been approved for $600 or more in rebates. The average is $3,000.

Agency officials are waiting to see whether the IRS exempts water-efficiency rebates before sending tax notices to recipients of rebates of $600 or more.

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