Rebates for Drought-Friendly Lawns Dry Up

More than 350 businesses and residents qualified for the short-lived rebate

Lawn rebates from the city of San Diego, designed to encourage homeowners to replace their grass with drought-friendly landscaping, dried up faster than the state’s water.

On April 15, the city launched its grass rebate program, paying $1.50 for every square foot of lawn replaced. The funds were expected to last through July.

But on Wednesday, city officials announced they were not accepting any more applications; San Diego’s well of $750,000 had gone dry.

Donna Rowley was in the process of meeting the requirements when she heard the bad news.

“They got the allotment and now they're out of money? It's not even the end of April yet,” she said Thursday. “How are we supposed to act so quickly when there's a lot of paperwork involved, taking pictures, etc., and submitting it?"

The city admits it was inundated beyond expectations. More than 350 residents and businesses will get the rebates, so more than 500,000 square feet grass will be torn up.

But some wonder how much of the money was sucked up by businesses, since the city did not create separate funding pools for companies and homeowners.

Homeowner Frank Whitton missed the rebates as well, but he’s moving forward with his xeriscaping plan. His grass, which is headed to the dump, has been replaced by rocks.

"With saving a gardener and water, it’s going to pay for itself in 12 months,” said Whitton. “It's that quick.”

The money for another rebate offered by the county Water Authority evaporated in January, but they say there is still a $2 per square foot rebate available through the SoCal Water$mart Turf Replacement program, which is not in danger of going away anytime soon.

Unlike other programs, there is also no cap for residential customers, so those with large yards can benefit greatly.

The city of San Diego expects to have additional funds for their rebate program at the start of their next fiscal year in July.

If you want to put in turf, the county water authority has worked out a 10 percent discount with certain companies, but you have to mention the discount to get it.

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