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The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced Thursday it is ending it rebate program for replacing lawns with drought tolerant vegetation.
Money for turf rebates is drying up, and Southern California’s largest water supplier is no longer accepting applications. The $2-per-square-foot rebate program is the largest of its kind in the country, officials say.
Despite more than a fourfold increase in the conservation budget, the supply of rebate money could not keep up with demand.
- Metropolitan Water District’s water conservation programs budget, including turf rebates, started last year at $40 million. In December, officials increased it to $100 million. In May, it was increased to $450 million.
- Of the $450 million, $390 million was for turf rebates and $60 million was set aside for water-saving appliances such as toilets, clothes washers and weather-based irrigation control systems.
- All the turf rebate money has been claimed – allocated to homeowners and businessesthat are ripping up or plan to rip up grass and install new landscaping between now and next spring. There’s already a waiting list to replace projects that drop out.
- The Metropolitan Program serves 19 million people, including Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. In Orange County, homeowners and businesses have removed 18 million to 20 million square feet of turf in the past two years, said Rob Hunter, the general manager of the Municipal Water District of Orange County, which oversees the turf rebate program for most of the county. Hunter doubted that Metropolitan would allocate any more money to turf rebates during the next year.
Metropolitan estimates more than 150 million square feet of grass will no longer exist in Southern California by the time all rebate-funded projects are completed.
Roughly 80 percent of projects getting turf rebates were residential. But commercial projects such as office parks, golf courses and homeowners associations removed more turf in total, amassing more rebate money.
Water officials hope homeowners will continue replacing turf even without rebates. They say the purpose of the rebates was to spur a shift in how landscapes are designed and managed.
Californians must become aware of the amount of water being used to irrigate turf.