Cash for Grass rebates jumpstart CA drought-friendly landscaping

grass lawnCalifornians are finding further incentives to switch out their water-thirsty lawns for more drought-tolerant landscapes.

In 2014, Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles authored Assembly Bill 2434, a measure designed to “protect owners from being taxed on turf removal rebates.” A press release issued on the day of signing noted:

In response to the current drought, many local water agencies have stepped up grant and financial assistance programs to help property owners improve landscape irrigation efficiency by replacing their existing landscapes and installing more water-efficient landscapes.


Assemblymember Gomez stated, “that with California experiencing record drought conditions, incentives are key to the state’s long term conservation efforts. My bill will make conservation programs more attractive to Californians and help the state save as much precious water as possible.”

The California Municipal Utilities Association wrote in support of the measure, citing that the measure would “help encourage residents to replace their thirsty lawns with colorful water smart landscaping and respond to this drought and the next one.”

Cash for Grass programs have popped up all over the state. Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts are offering property owners $1-2 “for every square foot of grass replaced with water-efficient landscaping” through the rebate program. Irvine Ranch Water District offers its water customers $2 per square foot of grass, with no limit on maximum square footage.

Such initiatives are providing real incentives for Californians to make the change. Bonnie Smith is a landscape designer based in Orange County and told me that things are “fantastically over-the-top busy” with “many calls every day.” She said although the rebate has been a wonderful incentive, “most people are removing their lawns because it’s the right thing to do. … We live in a desert, so we should plant accordingly.”

As of February 2015, requests from California residents for turf removal have topped 31 million square feet in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California alone. Businesses have also joined in the effort, requesting rebates to replace more than 45 million square feet of turf.

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