On April 1, Governor Jerry Brown called for California to cut water usage by 25 percent across the state by February 28, 2016. His directives include replacing 50 million square feet of lawns and ornamental turf with drought tolerant landscapes. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California sweetened the directive with a lawn replacement rebate program and a $100 million budget. In a state where five percent of our water is used for residential and commercial landscaping, the measure is understandable.
Since Brown’s call to action, residential interest for the rebate program has skyrocketed (because let’s get real, who wouldn’t trade a green lawn for stack of greenbacks?), but the project’s initial funding—an allocated $100 million—was already committed by early May. Due to popular demand, the district voted last week to increase funding for the program by $350 million for a total of $450 million. As of last Tuesday, they have received more than $330 million in applications for rebates. If you’re one of those applicants, here are three things you need to know about the new program:
We’re playing by a new set of rules.
In 2009, LADWP launched the Landscape Incentive Program without instituting a monetary cap on refunds. Last Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District, a regional wholesaler that delivers supplemental water to 26 member public agencies including LADWP, voted to cap the reimbursement for residential customers at $6,000 for up to 3,000 square feet of lawn. Customers who have previously received rebates may apply for additional rebates up to the 3,000 square foot total. Commercial rebates will max out at $25,000.
Be wary of charlatan contractors.
In an April 23 article with the International Business Times, Sandra Giarde, executive director of the California Landscape Contractors Association, warned readers about landscape services that focus more on lawn removal and less on the plants and materials that replace the turf. “With the increase in interest, there’s going to be a lot of folks coming out of the woodwork,” she said in regards to the myriad contractors available. “I’m personally very wary and warn the consumers of California to lend a critical eye and do your homework.” The article called out a company called Turf Terminators, which offers free lawn removal if customers sign over their rights to their rebates. Before starting your contractor search, look through the association’s tips on key things to look for in a landscape contractor and utilize the Web site’s contractor database.
There’s more to conserving water than uprooting your lawn.
In his State of the City address in April, Mayor Eric Garcetti said despite Los Angeles holding only 10 percent of California’s population, the city will reach half of Governor Brown’s statewide goal by the end of this year (go us!). That said, we Angelenos can’t quit while we’re ahead. The LADWP and the Metropolitan Water District offer additional incentive programs that take water conservation beyond our brown lawns.