Local and state officials are trying to ease the pain of California’s four-year-old drought by offering rebates to homeowners for everything from turf removal to water-efficient appliances.
Gov. Jerry Brown has set a statewide goal of cutting water use by 25% and has declared that 50 million square feet of turf be replaced with drought-tolerant landscape.
Mexican red bird of paradise in Tommie Martinez’s drought-tolerant front yard. | SILVIA FLORES SFLORES
For many cities, rebates are the easiest way to entice residents to rip out their lawns or replace their water-guzzling washing machines.
Among the central San Joaquin Valley cities offering rebates for turf replacement are Fresno and Madera. And a state rebate program is expected to start in the coming weeks.
Nora Laikam, Fresno’s water conservation supervisor, says the city has developed several program where experts provide free consultation services on water-wise landscaping, irrigation efficiency and checking for water leaks.
The newest component of the city’s water conservation plan is the rebate program. Eligible residents can receive up to $250 for replacing up to 500 square feet of turf with a water-efficient landscaping including drought-tolerant plants, mulch, rock, permeable hardscape and artificial turf.
The turf rebate began this spring; 86 had applied for it through July 21.
LANDSCAPE IRRIGATION REPRESENTS UP TO 70% OF THE WATER USED IN A TYPICAL HOUSEHOLD
“We have received quite a bit of interest from the public and this is something people want to do,” Laikam says. “But it’s also a huge decision and not an easy one to make. People are concerned about the look of their homes and their property values. And we understand that.”
Laikam strongly recommends that the public make use of the free landscape consultation services the city provides. As part of the service, a landscape expert will recommend water-wise plants, irrigation ideas and will talk about turf removal. A simple design may be drawn on site with landscaping possibilities.
Pam Rosales, who lives in the Huntington Boulevard area, will be applying for a turf rebate. A crew was busy Wednesday tearing out her dry lawn.
Rosales plans to install drought-tolerant plants, tall grasses, and possibly decomposed granite. She hasn’t finalized a design, but says she has lots of idea. Rosales was also thankful for the city’s free landscaping consultation.
“It was very helpful, I gave her some of my ideas and she gave me some of hers,” Rosales says.
Rosales, who has lived in her home for 26 years, estimates the cost of her landscape conversion will be about $4,000. “I know that is a good chunk of money but I was never fond of having all that grass in the front yard, I have hardscape in the backyard and side yard and I really like it. Plus, I understand that we are in drought. I want to be wise about the choices I make about water and I don’t want to wake up one day and not be able to shower.”
Another Huntington Boulevard homeowner, Tommie Martinez, tore out her front lawn last year. In place of two large patches of grass are lemon grass and mint along with Mexican bird of paradise, verbena and guara.
TO CHANGE OVER TO DROUGHT-TOLERANT PLANTS DOES NOT MEAN IT HAS TO LOOK LIKE A DESERT. I HAVE PLANTS THAT FLOWER AND ATTRACT HUMMINGBIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES.
Tommie Martinez, homeowner on Huntington Boulevard
“To change over to drought-tolerant plants does not mean it has to look like a desert,” Martinez says. “I have plants that flower and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.”
Jeremy Gragston, founder of Valley Edible Landscapes, supports the rebate program and says his company provides landscaping services that focus on both drought-tolerant plants and fruits and vegetables.
“We are trying to encourage people to use their properties in a more efficient way that requires less water,” Gragston says. “We like to incorporate plants that give back and provide food.”
Incentives in Clovis, Visalia, Madera
Clovis and Visalia do not have landscaping rebates. In Clovis, incentives (ranging from $35 to $75) for installing low-flow toilets and washing machines have been offered for at least five years, says Lisa Koehn, assistant public utilities director. But the city doesn’t have money available to fund anything else at this time, she says.
Visalia provides residents with sprinkler shutoff nozzles for free through the natural resources conservation department. California Water Service, the city’s urban water provider, has a rebate program for appliances, smart irrigation controllers and turf replacement.
The city of Madera is perhaps the most innovative with its new rebate program. A portion of the city’s new water and sewer rates, about a 30% increase approved on July 15, will go toward rebates ranging from $30 to $100 for synthetic grass, low-flow toilets, water-efficient washing machines, dishwashers and smart irrigation controllers.
Soon, the city will also reimburse residents for gray water equipment, precision and rotary low-spray heads, mulch and water-absorbent soil polymers which is a soil additive that helps retain moisture.
“People have become more and more aware” of the need to save water, says Dave Randall, Madera’s public works director. The state has been measuring water savings and Madera has reduced its water use by 30% week-by-week, exceeding its 28% goal, he says.
“We see an awful lot of brown lawns in this town,” Randall says.
|Chowchilla News Day
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