The popular turf-removal rebate program that many Californians have taken advantage of has come to an end. Hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates have been paid to residents of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California’s service area. Rebates were paid to MWD customers who replaced their lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes.
This past May, MWD officials announced a $350 million increase in funding for the popular rebate program, which had started out with $100 million. The total of $450 million made the program the nation’s largest turf removal and water conservation initiative.
Agency officials say the program is on track to result in the removal of more than 150 million square feet of turf in Southern California.
Last week, MWD announced that money for rebates is gone. “We didn’t predict just how popular turf rebates would become,” MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger told the LA Times.
Some rebates may still be available through local water agencies in some areas, according to the MWD website.
Turf Terminators, a landscape company that built its business around the rebate program, swelling from three employees to more than 450, announced this past Friday it will lay off about 30 percent of its workforce and furlough another 40 percent.
“Unfortunately, the sudden shutdown of the rebate program has forced the company to downsize its operations,” according to a statement Turf Terminators provided to the LA Times. “A sizable percentage of the company remains fully employed and the company is still fully operational and servicing its existing customers.”
Although Turf Terminators is an extreme case, other landscapers say they will see a shift in their business as well. Los Angeles landscaper Alex Salazar estimates about 40 percent of his business is turf removal because of the rebates.
“I know we’re going to have a lot less activity than we did before, because not everyone can afford to pay out of pocket,” Salazar told Southern California Public Radio. Salazar expects he will go back to what he was doing before the rebate-craze – namely, everyday landscaping that is not drought-related.