Keeping up grassy, green lawns in Los Angeles’s near-desert climate epitomizes the city’s (often false) fake, plastic, wasteful reputation. Turf yards shimmering in drought conditions are emblems of a destructive consumer lifestyle where keeping up certain appearances come at great cost, both financial and environmental.
But since 2009, the city’s Department of Water and Power has employed a clever strategy to get people to change their ways: paying them to rip out their grassy lawns and replace them with more water-friendly alternatives. According to Southern California Public Radio, the rebates have incentivized 850 property owners in Los Angeles to pull out and replace 1.5 million square feet of grass.
But this summer, the DWP is raising the stakes. Should property owners qualify for the offer, they’ll now get $2 per square foot instead of just $1.50. As SCPR reports:
Two bucks a square foot can mean a few thousand dollars in the pocket of the average homeowner, and the DWP hopes that will boost interest. And you don’t have to replace it with gravel and cacti.
L.A. recognizes the same wide menu of lawn alternatives that other utilities do, including shrubs, vines, trees, succulents and perennial plants. The utility will also kick in money for using weather-based irrigation systems and eco-friendly sprinkler heads.
To get a rebate, homeowners and commercial businesses must seek pre-approval for their proposed changes, and show the DWP what the lawn looks like now.
Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles isn’t the first city to adopt this smart idea. Mesa, Arizona, and Austin offer similar rebates, as does Las Vegas, whose initiative has gotten rid of 125 million square feet of grass and saved 7 billion gallons of water (nearly one-tenth of the region’s annual water supply) in the past decade.