Debbie Arrington

Seeds: California offers rebates for turf, toilets

Rogalio Chavez helps remove grass from Suzuki headquarters in Brea earlier this summer. The state’s Department of Water Resources this month began a direct rebate program for turf removal.
Rogalio Chavez helps remove grass from Suzuki headquarters in Brea earlier this summer. The state’s Department of Water Resources this month began a direct rebate program for turf removal. Orange County Register

California wants to buy your lawn – and old toilets, too.

Two new programs launched this month by the state’s Department of Water Resources offer rebates for turf removal and toilet replacement.

The state’s goal is to woo residents to rip out another 10 million square feet of turf and replace it with water-wise landscaping. (You can’t just leave bare ground.)

Ready to rip out an old water-wasting toilet? That can earn a $100 rebate also (but only one per household).

Instead of contacting your local water district for the “Cash for Grass” offer and toilet turnover, the DWR created a one-stop online process to issue applications and administer rebates. Residents can qualify to receive $2 per square foot of turf removal, up to $2,000.

They can apply online for both programs at SaveOurWaterRebates.com. The site started accepting applications Aug. 12.

DWR is trying to make a difference in water savings during 2015 – as the drought continues to linger – as well as for years to come.

“We wanted to get the dollars out as quickly as we could,” said Kent Frame, DWR turf initiative program manager. “We especially wanted to get money quickly to communities where their groundwater is severely depleted.”

Unlike most drought-related residential rebate programs, the DWR will handle this one directly instead of parceling out funding to local water agencies. According to officials, it streamlines the rebate process and motivates residents to act now rather than wait until next year.

Turf and toilets represent our biggest typical household water uses, which makes them a top priority for drought relief funding. They’re two areas where relatively small changes can have real impact.

“There seems to be a lot of interest for ‘Cash for Grass’ in particular,” Frame said. “There have been a lot of local water-related rebate programs through local agencies, but this is the first time for the Department of Water Resources to be involved in the rebates directly. This is sort of new to us.”

Specifically, the turf program will be monitored by DWR and administered by the Electric & Gas Industries Association, according to the DWR. Funding for both programs came from the Proposition 1 water bond, approved by voters in 2014.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, darrington@sacbee.com, @debarrington

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