Artificial Grass Rebates + Turf Replacement Incentives {California Drought Guide}

by Katie Dillon

Artificial Turf Replacement Rebates & Incentives
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Governor Jerry Brown’s recent state of emergency declaration plus overall public awareness of the California drought have resulted in some new rebate opportunities for local homeowners and businesses. With no rain in sight (at the moment) and more drastic reduction measures being considered by local authorities this week, it’s critical that homeowners stay ahead of the game by reducing water usage gradually at home.

Remove your turf grass lawn, replace it with water-wise plants (or even a 50-50 combination of water-wise plants and permeable pavers), and now receive up to $2.50 per square foot after combining rebates offered by the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego Water Authority.

Earning a rebate does take effort and organization, but here’s the gist of how to do it…

Get Paid for Removing a Lawn by the Metropolitan Water District

Turf Removal Rebates Southern California: San Diego, Orange County, Riverside County
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The average homeowner spends 60% of their water bill on outdoor irrigation. Turf grass usually requires most of that spend, in addition to other maintenance like mowing and fertilization. Using drought tolerant plants as turf grass replacement qualifies for rebate consideration though artificial turf may provide more convenience over time along with zero need for irrigation.

You can’t earn a rebate for just removing the lawn. A plan involving water-wise plants must be implemented (there are listed requirements online).

If removing 250 square feet or more of turf, homeowners in Southern California are eligible for a rebate of up to $1 or more per square foot from the Metropolitan Water Authority. There isn’t a maximum incentive amount. SoCal Water Smart has all of the details, but here’s a quick breakdown:

How Do I Qualify?

It’s critical to read the requirements before jumping into a lawn replacement to make sure that you are documenting your space and project correctly.

Basic requirements include:

1. Your lawn must be alive. A dead lawn or area full of dirt doesn’t count.
2. The project has to meet the terms and conditions of the city.
3. You must not be replacing the lawn with living turf or turf-like plants.
4. Don’t break the law during your project.
5. You can’t have received turf removal rebate prior.

Reserve Your Rebate Amount –

The good news is that you have to submit an application prior to the start of your project so you’ll know the rebate amount to expect in advance. Funds will be reserved on your behalf and current approval lead time averages two weeks. Be prepared to complete your project within 120 days.

During the application process, color photos of the existing living turf will need to be submitted along with a copy of your water bill. Capture the full range of the project, not just a close-up of grass.

Final Steps –

Grab the camera again to snap color photos of the finished project. Submit them through your online account along with another water bill. You should hear back within 4-5 weeks.

The Tricky Part –

It’s up to you of your contractor to sketch a drawing that outline the exact number of square feet to be replaced. SoCal Water Smart has specific directions and even some graph paper to download, if need be.

Turf Replacement Rebate from the San Diego Water Authority

Turf Replacement Rebate from the San Diego Water Authority
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The process is similar to the turf removal rebate application outlined above though there is a maximum rebate allowance of $3000 per 2000 square foot of turf replacement.

How To Apply?

In addition to photos and a water bill, you’ll need a documented list of plants from:

If there’s a plant under consideration that is not featured on these lists, it will require separate approval. Residential applicants will also be required to complete a one-hour training course online. Do not start your project until rebate approval has been received.

A Native Plant Reminder –

Most of the plants on the lists above are native plants. Do not feel limited as the benefits to installing plants already acclimated to our soil and weather conditions are extensive. Plus, native plants can be truly stunning in a landscape, reduce maintenance bills, add year-round color to your yard as well as attract butterflies and birds, if that’s a priority.

Mix Pavers + Plants –

Permeable pavers qualify as long as the turf replacement area is also 50% landscaped with water-wise plants. Permeable pavers are preferred over asphalt or concrete as they allow water to drain through the material itself or through joints. The slow seepage into the ground prevents rainwater run-off into the ocean while allowing the ground to benefit from likely needed moisture. Plus, between the various patterns, colors and styles, they’re incredibly attractive. We can help you estimate how much pavers cost to install and provide a number of paver design ideas.

Other Tips…

It’s possible that a site check may be necessary so be sure to follow the rules throughout the rebate process.

Another water-saving measure to consider after replacing turf is supplementing irrigation with rain barrels. Hook a barrel up to a rain gutter downspout to catch and store rainwater for use in the yard. Rebates exist for these, too, and they’re pretty easy to install. Rain barrels are also instrumental if trying to implement true xeriscaping practices.

Replace your grass and save
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At the moment, artificial turf isn’t a part of either rebate program if you live in San Diego. However, homeowners still choose it for practical purposes. It’s easier to create a giant place space for kids on artificial turf versus a more fragile bed of native ground cover. Artificial turf also stands up well to pets and doesn’t required any irrigation (native plants will still require a limited amount of water).

As soon as funding runs out, the rebates will be gone. Our advice is to get going on a turf replacement project as soon as possible in order to avoid disappointment.

About The Drought

The San Diego Union Tribune recently published a striking satellite picture of the snowless Sierra Nevada mountains as evidence that the drought can be seen from space. This time last year, the Sierra’s didn’t look nearly as bad.

As a result of relatively accurate forecasting and good planning by water agencies, San Diego is expected to have enough water through 2014 though 2015 is uncertain. Residents have successfully cut usage by about 27% since 2007 but this isn’t enough. About 85% of our water is imported the main supplier, the Metropolitan Water Authority, currently under pressure to send precious water reserves up north.

Why? Northern California is in particularly bad shape. Reports of farmers selling cattle due to lack of food and planting less crops are flooding the media. It’s even rumored that Northern California vineyards will plant less grapes as a result. What does this mean? Experts suggest that food prices are likely to rise.

This week, the San Diego County Water Authority meets to discuss further conservation strategies. Be ahead of the game and implement your own starting now.

Your Turn…

Now that we’re in a drought, are you taking further steps to cut back on water in the yard? Does this new combined rebate offer incentivize you to consider turf replacement?

Photo credits: top, Flickr/string_bass_dave; dirt lawn, Flickr/jonner; plants at nursery, Flickr/tracie7779; dog,stock.xchng/Cjcj

Katie Dillon

Katie writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site focused on parenting, luxury travel, cooking with kids, home management and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in the seaside community of La Jolla, CA with her 5-year-old fashionista, dog, and husband. Follow Katie on TwitterPinterest and Google +.

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