Southern California turf removal rebate returns in July

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Updated Apr 16, 2018

Photo of a Gardner Planting Purple Flowering PlantThe Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors recently approved a new turf removal program. Through this program, interested businesses and residents across Southern California can swap out their grass for more water-efficient California Friendly plants.

This revamped landscape rebate was among several modifications to Metropolitan’s water use efficiency incentives approved by the board on April 10.

Starting in July under the new Landscape Transformation Program, the district will offer a rebate of $1 per square foot of turf removed via

The program, according to Business Wire, will be offered annually and will accept up to $50 million in applications each year. On top of the $1 per square foot, additional incentives have been added by some of Metropolitan’s member agencies.

“Metropolitan made a huge mark on the landscape of Southern California with our turf removal rebate during the five-year drought,” board chairman Randy Record told Business Wire. “We hope to continue the region’s transformation and build on that momentum through our new rebate.”

As part of the nation’s largest conservation program during the drought, Metropolitan’s popular turf removal rebate spurred the removal of 160 million square feet of grass across Southern California. This was annually expected to save 21,600 acre-feet of water or enough to serve about 64,000 households, according to Business Wire.

Business Wire reports that the Landscape Transformation Program includes new rules with a rebate maximum of 1,500 square feet of removed turf for residents and 10,000 square feet for businesses.

Also required in the new rules is a landscape plan, efficient irrigation, a watershed approach, mulch coverage and a certain number of water-saving plants. Synthetic turf is prohibited.

Additionally, Business Wire reports that homeowners must remove turf from their front yard; if they do or have done their front lawns in the past, they are eligible to receive a rebate for turf removal in the side or backyard.

“Part of the success of the Landscape Transformation Program is the multiplier effect,” Bill McDonnell, Metropolitan’s water use efficiency manager, told Business Wire. “Neighbors see neighbors replace their grass with colorful California Friendly plants. They see the beauty, the birds, the butterflies it attracts, and they want to do the same. That’s why we want to focus on front yards.”

Business Wire states that the long-term nature of the new program provides some reliability to businesses and residents who are planning to redo their yards in the coming years.

“We recognize that replacing your lawn is a big project,” McDonnell told Business Wire. “If you can’t do it this year but plan to next, the rebate will be back next year.”

Metropolitan told Business Wire that under this new program, classes will also be offered to landscape professionals that will allow them to become certified water-efficient landscapers.

Metropolitan says it already offers a variety of landscaping classes to the public via its online water-saving portal.

Business Wire reports that in a separate action on Tuesday, Metropolitan’s board also approved a 3 percent rate increase in each of the next two years as part of the agency’s biennial budget for fiscal years 2018/19 and 2019/20.

Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, said the new two-year spending plan will allow the agency to upgrade parts of the region’s water distribution system, begin to fund its share of California WaterFix and increase its investment in conservation.

“This budget strikes an equitable balance between funding our strategic priorities and maintaining the agency’s smart financial policies and sensible rate increase,” Kightlinger told Business Wire. “Rate increases are never popular, but when you look at what we are doing in this budget—starting to fund California WaterFix to modernize our state’s water delivery system, local conservation programs and extensive improvements to aging infrastructure—these modest increases are reasonable and smart investments in our future.”

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