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SAN DIEGO – New financial incentives are available for homeowners who want to replace water-hungry lawns with more efficient landscaping, the San Diego County Water Authority announced Wednesday.

The agency has $500,000 available from grants awarded by the state Department of Water Resources, and an upcoming grant is expected to add another $600,000.

Qualified applicants can receive up to $1.75 per square foot toward eligible project costs for upgrading 500 to 3,000 square feet of existing turf areas, according to the Water Authority.

Funding for incentives is limited, and will be reserved for completed and approved applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Money from previous incentive programs dried up quickly.

Those interested in participating must be ratepayers within the service areas of the San Diego County Water Authority or the California-American Water Co., and must not remove their turf grass before receiving an official “Notice to Proceed” from the program.

Lawns to be replaced must have an in-ground irrigation system, and the site needs to have an inspection before the conversion takes place.

“Please note that converted turf areas may not include artificial turf, other turf-like grasses or invasive species (this is a post-project eligibility restriction that applies to areas converted under the program, not a reference to a pre-project requirement). Incentive recipients are required to comply with a set of rigorous design criteria that includes water-efficient plants and irrigation equipment, rainwater capture and detention features, and soil amendments to improve water efficiency. The ineligibility of areas using well water or recycled water is a separate pre-project eligibility restriction,” said James Palen of the San Diego County Water Authority.

The incentive program is a partnership of the Water Authority, Association of Compost Producers, the California-American Water Co., the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego and the Surfrider Foundation.

Additional information about eligibility requirements and how to apply is available online.