Turf replacement programs are available for San Diego County residents . Yes, you can get paid to kill your lawn!

With the news coverage of our catastrophic drought and water shortage, you may have already heard of turf replacement programs in San Diego County. These programs essentially pay you to kill your lawn and install a water-wise landscape, including trees. This is an environmentally responsible move for many reasons.

I am a long-standing proponent of killing lawns and installing a native landscape of groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. Saving water is only one reason why this is such a good idea.

Replacing your turfgrass with native trees and plants is an excellent way to save water, maintenance costs, reduce pollution, help local wildlife, and increase your property’s value.

Kill Your Lawn (Please!)

Here is why I really want you to kill your lawn:

  1. Lawns Are Thirsty Green Sponges. Turfgrass requires a ridiculous amount of water to stay green, and a leading reason why the majority of residential water use is for irrigation. Water-wise landscapes use about 70% less water than lawns.
  2. Lawns Aren’t Habitats. Lawns are not homes for our local wildlife. When our housing developments were built, construction workers cleared out our local coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats to grade the land. These lawns don’t provide the food and shelter that once existed. When you kill your lawn and install a native landscape, you participate in a small habitat restoration. The birds will thank you.
  3. Lawns Pollute. Lawns create a ridiculous amount of pollution.  First, there are the fertilizers and pesticides that seep into our groundwater, causing all sorts of problems.  Secondly, the regular mow-and-blow service that lawns require involves gas-powered tools that pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and loud noise throughout your neighborhood.

    Choose healthier and sustainable alternatives to turfgrass and palm trees.
    Choose healthier and sustainable alternatives to turfgrass and palms.
  4. Lawns Don’t Support Native Trees. San Diego County needs more trees! Development in the past 30 years has led to a major loss of trees in San Diego County. We need them to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, conserve our soil, reduce rainwater runoff, and cool down the earth.  As a Realtor, I also love trees because trees increase property values! They also keep homes cooler in the summer.  I’m amazed how many homes don’t have any shade trees at all. (Palms don’t provide the benefits of trees.) Native trees use less water and provide excellent habitats for wildlife. It’s difficult to plant native trees in a traditional lawn, however, because their water requirements aren’t the same.  Many native trees can die from being overwatered.

Turf Replacement is Good Karma

When you kill your lawn and replace it with low-maintenance native plants and trees, you increase your property value, dramatically lower your water bill, save money on landscaping, and you stop polluting the environment with gas-powered tools, fertilizers, and pesticides.

My favorite benefit of a native garden is providing food and shelter for local birds and butterflies. You can also read about how native plants can help protect your property from wildfires.

Turf Replacement Programs in San Diego

There are currently two programs in San Diego that will pay you to kill your lawn and replace it with a water-wise garden. Be sure to include trees as an important element of your landscape design.

San Diego County Water Authority – Sustainable Landscapes Incentive Program

The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has a Sustainable Landscapes Incentive Program. This program offers up to $1.75 per square foot for turf replacement projects. Eligible projects must include rainwater capture and detention, soil enhancements, climate-appropriate plants, water-efficient irrigation methods, and are subject to site inspections. Go to the SDCWA website for more information.

Department of Water Resources – Save Our Water Rebates

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) – The California DWR has a Save Our Water rebate program for removing turf and replacing it with waterwise landscapes. The $24 million program budget is expected to support the conversion of more than 10 million square feet of turf, or approximately 20% of the statewide goal of 50 million square feet of turf. Up to $2 per square foot of removed and replaced turf will be rebated per eligible household. The total rebated amount, including any rebates the homeowner has already applied for from another agency, can’t exceed a total of $2 per square foot.

The DWR program is for both front yards and backyards. You must have at least one tree. Mulch is required on all exposed soil surfaces. At minimum, 25% of the converted area must include low-water-use, drought-tolerant or California native plants. The Program requires drip irrigation, micro-spray irrigation, or hand watering. Thankfully, synthetic turf is not allowed. Click here to apply for the DWR rebate program.

The Bottom Line

Funding is limited for turf replacement programs in San Diego County, so act right away to secure your rebate. The red tape involved when applying for these rebates is a small price to pay for the long-term financial and environmental benefits of a sustainable landscape.

Have you signed up for your free irrigation checkup? San Diego County residents are eligible for this free program, that can save you $$$ on your water bill! You can also qualify for a rebate for a rain barrel, to capture rainwater for irrigation. Limited time only – FREE energy and water tune-ups are going away after 2017! All SDG&E residents are eligible, so sign up today!

If you want to learn more about water-wise landscaping, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offers free California Friendly Landscape classes online. The San Diego County Water Authority also offers free California Friendly Landscape Training classes throughout San Diego County.

While I am a Realtor full-time, I also volunteer as a Tree Steward with Tree San Diego, and I am an active volunteer at the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.  Like most residents, I’m very concerned about the drought, and the greater problem of global warming. Our landscaping choices can reduce water use considerably, and make a significant contribution to our community.

Have you applied for these rebates? I would love to hear about your experiences with these programs. Please call or text me at (760) 637-7231 or send me a message.

Mylene Merlo is a licensed REALTOR® with Allison James Estates & Homes in Carlsbad, California. As a Carlsbad Real Estate Agent, I specialize in residential North County San Diego real estate. I have earned the Green designation and the Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certification from the National Association of REALTORS®. If you have any questions about real estate in Carlsbad, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Solana Beach, or Vista, call or text me at (760) 637-7231 or send me a message.

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