Turf’s up (if you’re looking for some juicy rebates!)


Yes, we know your lawn is gorgeous now, lush, glistening in the peekaboo sun and greener than it’s ever been, thanks to our flood of winter rains.

But (cue the Jaws” music) summer is coming folks, along with its scorching heat and rocketing water bills. Remember what you went through last year to keep that lawn halfway green and alive?

For the record:

6:45 p.m. March 7, 2019An earlier version of this post contained incorrect information about the location of two upcoming drought-gardening classes being held on March 23. The class in La Cañada Flintridge is at 626 Foothill Blvd., and the class in Los Angeles is being held at the LADWP’s Wall Street facility.

Remember what you had to pay?

If you’re thinking this may be the year to replace your turf with a new water-saving landscape, the Metropolitan Water District has just super-sweetened the deal.


On Feb. 12, the water district’s board doubled the rebates in its Turf Replacement Program from $1 to $2 per square foot and increased the eligible area from 1,500 to 5,000 square feet for residential landscapes and from 10,000 to 50,000 square feet for commercial, institutional and industrial sites.

The board also removed requirements that you must take out lawn in your front yard before removing lawn in the back, doubled the amount of time required to complete a project (from 90 to 180 days) and reduced the number of plants required per 100 square feet from five to three.

Oh, and the district is also sponsoring a multitude of free classes to help you remove your old lawn and make plans for what you’ll plant instead.

It’s all being done with the goal of getting you to rip up the water-sucking lawn and replant with a water-sipping drought-tolerant garden.

Look past all this rain, said Bill McDonnell, the district’s water efficiency manager:

“We have to provide water to 19 million people whether it’s rainy and cold or hot and sunny, so we’re in this for the long term.”


When it first offered the rebate program back in 2014, the district was in crisis mode, McDonnell said. “We were in the middle of the drought of droughts, and the whole idea was to survive the drought by taking out as much turf as possible.”

That program, which many saw as the model for other water districts, ran out of money in 2016 but was resurrected in 2018 with a rebate of $1 per square foot. It was met with lackluster interest.

The board decided to increase the incentives this year to spur more involvement, McDonnell said.

“We don’t want this to be a drought-response program; it’s more of a lifestyle change” to improve our region’s overall health, he said. For instance, the program now emphasizes landscaping with California natives or decorative edibles because they will do more than just conserve water; they’ll benefit threatened butterflies, bees and other fauna.

“The idea is that 10 or 20 years from now, this will be the norm,” he said. “If we only have a program that turns on when there’s a drought, that’s not long-term water efficiency, and that’s what California needs — not knee-jerk reactions to a drought.”


The district will start accepting applications for turf removal on April 1 and offer up to $50 million in rebates each year.

In the meantime, you can learn more at one of the dozens of free classes being offered this spring around Southern California by the district’s contractor, the G3 Green Gardens Group. Most require advance registration.

Free drought-tolerant landscaping classes being held March 23

Here are just a few of the many free upcoming classes being held this spring to help you transition from lawn to drought garden. Find more at and, as well as your local water district.

La Cañada Presbyterian Church

Time: 9 a.m. to noon

Where: 626 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge

LADWP Wall Street facility


Time: 9 a.m. to noon

Where: J1350 S. Wall St., DTLA

West High School Cafeteria No. 5

Time: 9 a.m. to noon

Where: 20401 Victor St., Torrance

5 steps to help you decide:

  1. Visit for the latest information about rebates, then check with your local water agency for additional incentives and resources.
  2. Figure the square footage of what you want to remove, then multiply by the potential rebates to get an idea of your budget.
  3. Take a landscape class to begin learning about the process. Visit to see what classes are being offered in your area. Most require advance registration.
  4. Determine your lawn type to decide the best removal process. For instance, the district identifies three main lawn types — green in winter (fescue), brown in winter (Bermuda grass) and patchy grass with weeds. There are various removal methods, like sheet mulching, which works for all three with slight modifications for each, or solarization, which works for green-in-winter lawns, but only in summer with hot temperatures.
  5. Start planning your new landscape by researching your preferred gardening approach. Here are a few databases to help you get started: