The Dry Garden: L.A. offers rebate for ripping out your lawn


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As if broken sprinklers, polluting mowers or the simple desire to conserve water weren’t enough, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is giving its customers more motivation to let go of their lawns. Single-family homes can get a rebate of up to $2,000, assuming you meet criteria for the Residential Drought Resistant Landscape Incentive Program.

The program was announced in The Times’ California Briefing last week. L.A. at Home’s drought-tolerant-gardening columnist, Emily Green, offers some additional details as well as some context: Though the program is a good idea, she says, L.A. is still playing catch-up to places such as Las Vegas, which offered its residents 50% more money to do the same thing.


Check out Green’s full column after the jump.

-- Craig Nakano

By Emily Green

Fast on the heels of the new watering ordinances that took effect June 1, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has begun a cash-for-grass program. Single-family homes served by the DWP will be eligible to receive $1 for every square foot of turf that they replace with less thirsty alternatives.

For years Southern California water managers paid scant attention to outdoor water conservation. Then they saw stunning savings achieved in Nevada. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, in the last decade, Las Vegas has removed more than 125 million square feet of grass, saving 7 billion gallons of water a year. That’s almost one-tenth of Southern Nevada’s annual water supply.

Here in Los Angeles, the new Residential Drought Resistant Landscape Incentive Program is not region-wide. It applies only to Department of Water and Power customers, and it’s not the $1.50 per square foot that Vegas residents receive. Any other catches?

The agency won’t be buying dead lawn, warns DWP spokeswoman Jane Galbraith. If you are lucky enough to live where the lawn is already dead, the water company takes the view that nature has already done the right thing for you.

But if you have 200 to 2,000 square feet of lawn that is doing little more than consuming water, then the DWP is willing to pay you to get rid of it. That includes the forlorn strip of lawn between the sidewalk and curb known as the ‘parkway.’

Opening the DWP program to parkways makes good sense because watering with sprinklers is next to impossible there without creating runoff. Under the new drought ordinances, creating runoff is now illegal.


So instead of waiting for an inevitable ticket, homeowners can receive a rebate. The hardship is minimal: Cap the sprinklers, dig out the lawn and replace it with something smarter.

The single greatest challenge is choosing that something smarter. The rebate program requires that you have a plan for the successor landscape. Acceptable turf substitutes include drought-tolerant plants, mulch and permeable ground cover.

The department will steer participating homeowners to various gardening classes sponsored through to help guide homeowners through the conversion process. You will find listings of Southern California dry gardening classes on this blog’s event calendar and on my website, Chance of Rain.

Whatever successor landscape you choose, the intent of the cash-for-grass program is to reduce the 50 to 90 inches of water routinely applied to turf every year. Drought-tolerant substitutes may require just 15 — in keeping with L.A.’s average annual rainfall.

For information on the L.A. Department of Water and Power program, call the regional water agency rebate hotline at (888) 376-3314. The recording will say funding for regionwide programs is exhausted, but keep listening. DWP customers can press 3 for more details on their rebate.

Note: Green’s column on drought-tolerant gardening will appear on this blog every week. Click on ‘Dry Garden’ in the category cloud.