It took nearly a decade and a four-year historic drought for the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program to become wildly popular among Santa Clara County residents. So much that, not even halfway through the 2016 fiscal year, budgeted funds for the landscape rebate program ran out and the water district began a program wait list for new applicants.
The program offers a monetary rebate to customers who replace a thirsty lawn or swimming pool with a California-friendly landscape. It received a boost of $1 million in July of this year through June 2017. The rebate amount is back to $1 per square foot of grass converted, allowing for a greater number of square feet to be converted with the newly budgeted funds. Some cities and water retailers are adding an additional $1 per square foot for their customers. Funds are available on a first come, first served basis, and the wait list backlog has been addressed.
Since Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought a state emergency in 2014, the program has grown exponentially with the number of square feet of turf converted to low-water use plants increasing by almost 700 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. Application rates also grew almost five times as much in 2014-15. Also contributing to the program’s popularity, in 2014 the water district doubled rebate conversion rates from $1 a square foot to $2, emphasizing the need for water conservation. Between Jan. 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016 the water district converted over 8.1 million square feet of grass, investing approximately $17 million in converting turf.
The recent boost in funding includes money set aside to develop an educational program to help program participants in the design, irrigation and maintenance of converted landscapes. It also includes funding for irrigation upgrades, to make caring for water-wise gardens as efficient and easy as possible.
Even though water-wise gardens have become more common in large part due to the drought, they are an important investment for the future of our water supply. Water is a finite resource. We can’t “make” more water; we can only use what currently exists. About 50 percent of residential water use goes towards outdoor watering, so a low-water-use landscape saves water that can be used efficiently for other important tasks.
Investing in the kinds of plants to withstand our region’s dry climate is just one step toward long-term water conservation strategies. We also need to invest in the systems to water them. The water district continues to work toward developing opportunities and tools for residents to save water. The Graywater Laundry to Landscape Rebate Program assists residents who divert used water from their clothes washer to their landscape. For more information on this program, visit our website.
The water district also hosts free workshops in coordination with other agencies on designing and caring for a water-wise garden, as well as the tools and techniques needed to install a graywater system. You can check the schedule of events on our website.
To get ideas for your landscape conversion project, visit our gallery here.