Los Angeles Offers Rebate for Ripping Out Lawns

The L.A. Times
reports that the L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) is offering single-family homes up to USD 2,000 to get rid of their lawns in favor of native, low-water-usage plants. If a homeowner rips out lawn, turns off their sprinklers, and replaces the lawn with more sustainable options, they will receive a rebate from the city. According to the L.A. Times, “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.” (see earlier post on sustainable landscape architecture).

The goal of the program is to elimate the use of any municipal water for lawns. Drought-tolerant substitutes are estimated to require just 15 inches of water per year, which is the same amount as L.A.’s average annual rainfall. (In comparison, grassy lawns can require 50-90 inches per year, creating enormous water needs).

L.A.’s DWP says it “won’t buy dead lawn.” “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.'” DWP is taking aim at those strips of parkways because they contribute to sprinkler systems’ runoff. The L.A. Times writes: “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.”

The L.A. Times says the idea is a good one, but L.A. still needs to catch up with other cities like Las Vegas, which offer up to 50 percent more money to do the same. Las Vegas is far ahead of L.A. in removing water-consuming lawns. “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.”

TreeHugger notes San Diego is also encouraging homeowners to let their lawns go.

Read the article and check out xeriscaping resources. Also, read a post by Climate Progress on smart gardening.

Image credit: L.A. Times

6 thoughts on “Los Angeles Offers Rebate for Ripping Out Lawns

  1. h2oh! 06/30/2009 / 10:20 am

    Hmmm….. Curious economics here!

    Let’s say you have 2000 square feet of lawn and water 100 inches a year. That equates to 16,666 cubic feet of water per year or 2,228 gallons. Paying $2,000 to save this water equates to $1.14 per gallon. That would take 222 years to have a positive pay-off based upon current water rates of $0.005 per gallon.

    And to catch up to Las Vegas…well, if the numbers cited are accurate…saving 7 billion gallons of water from not watering 125 million square feet of landscape means that the landscape had been consuming 7.5 feet (90 inches) per year of water. Those are rainforest numbers!

    Where is all that money going? It looks like the mob has found something more profitable than casinos in vegas!

  2. Turfdog 07/01/2009 / 11:42 pm

    Might this plan include drought tolerant turf grasses
    that have been developed to require much less water
    and almost NO mowing? Hybrid native grasses like Turffalo
    might allow for at least SOME areas of turf in the landscape.
    Perhaps the plan should include these new hybrids but also stipulate the percentage of turf area allowable to keep people from simply replacing their current lawns with these hybrids.
    Even with their drought tolerant/low growing characteristics, they still require more water than non-turf native landscapes.
    So unless people can reduce their turf areas and become educated to change their expectations of the ‘evergreen lawn’ to allow for the dormancy periods during peak summer when these grasses naturally turn yellow, it might
    not be a good idea.
    I think at the very least, these hybrids should be required for parks and other public spaces where turf is needed.


  3. skraeling 07/06/2009 / 4:46 pm

    Replace the lawn and trees with fruit bearing trees and a garden. It may not cut down on total water bill, but will reduce carbon output by eliminating trips to the market for produce.

    • Wow 03/31/2010 / 9:06 am

      Should we put a cow in the yard as well?
      You do realize that people hit the market for MORE than fruits and vegetables, yes? lol

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