County ends lawn replacement rebate program

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Water Authority announced Thursday that it will no longer accept applications for its lawn replacement rebate program, because pending requests will exhaust all the remaining funding.

Under the two-year-old program, property owners who replace their lawns with low-water landscapes receive rebates of $1.50 per square-foot of removed grass, up to $3,000 for homes and $9,000 for businesses.

Jason Foster, director of public outreach and conservation for the Water Authority, said the rebates catalyzed a market transformation at minimal cost to ratepayers.

“As these new landscapes mature, they will need less and less water, and that will benefit everyone during the current drought,” Foster said. “Over many years, these landscapes will continue to help us promote water-use efficiency as a way of life in San Diego County.”

By the time the program ends, it will have helped customers pay for 1,000 projects that replace 1 million square feet of water-hungry grass, which should save 1,350 acre-feet of water over the next 10 years, according to the Water Authority.

One acre-foot can supply a family of four for one year, so the savings could provide water for 270 families over a decades’ time, according to the Water Authority.

According to data from the agency, an average of around 30 people per month applied for the rebates in 2013 and early last year. But as awareness of ongoing drought conditions spread, requests skyrocketed to more than 160 per month between last July and December.

The program was paid for by $2.1 million in grants from the state Department of Water Resources and the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Residents and businesses in San Diego County still can apply for turf removal rebates of $2 per square foot from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California at http://www.SoCalWaterSmart.com.

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