San Diego County residents continue to embrace low-water use landscapes taking advantage of rebates to swap grass for native and drought-tolerant plants. There are also incentives for areas with larger landscapes to increase water use efficiency.
Landscape upgrade projects which previously were too complex for volunteer associations to manage are now possible with expert assistance through a program offered through a San Diego County Water Authority and County of San Diego partnership.
The Landscape Optimization Service, or LOS, is offered through the County’s Waterscape Rebate Program. The technical assistance program is designed for large-scale landscaping projects. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs, parks, and commercial properties, navigate the requirements, overcome barriers, and maximize rebate eligibility.
El Norte Park Homes in Escondido used the program to create a water-saving landscape makeover project. Upgrades included replacing 10,000 square feet of grass with new native plant gardens inside the property and low-water use plants on the exterior. The new colorful landscaping uses less water. Drip irrigation was upgraded and a swale acts as a water retention feature.
El Norte Park Homes transformation
Jesse Hynd of MSE Landscape Professionals performed the makeover work.
“We’ve been doing these turf rebate enhancement projects for a little over five to six years now,” said Hynd. “What I’ve noticed is that it’s helped a lot of the HOAs and commercial projects get on board.
“Water districts are offering a lot more incentives now, not only just for a per square foot rebate. There are a lot of irrigation rebates now. The more water retention options we add to the site, offer even more money back.”
Hynd said the multiple incentives offer maximum rebate funding while helping the region achieve its long-term water-saving goals.
Helping hand from the experts
El Norte Park Homes board member Fred Johnson said he learned about the program through a Vallecitos Water District newsletter article. He had a lot of questions.
“I have experience with a similar project from about ten years ago when I served on another board,” said Johnson. “It was much smaller in scale. And that program didn’t provide any assistance. We as a board had to fill out all the forms, take all the before and after photos, submit the paperwork, and hope we didn’t miss anything to get our rebates.”
Johnson contacted Megan Chery of Environmental Incentives, which oversees the LOS program. Working with Johnson and the board, Cherry determined the project was eligible for the rebate program, and the board approved the project moving forward. Johnson says it made the difference.
“They helped us identify what kind of [landscape] plan,”said Johnson. “They did our design for us. They identified all the rebates, and they’re going to process all the rebates. It was much simpler and easier using the Landscape Optimization Service.”
“We’re so pleased our outreach helped El Norte Park Homes take advantage of this program,” said Vallecitos Water District Conservation Supervisor Chris Robbins. “Many of our larger customers are eager to update their landscaping to be more water efficient but don’t have the time, funds, or expertise to do it on their own. The County and Water Authority partnership featuring the LOS enables us to offer our customers the help they need to make it possible with assistance from start to finish.”
Practical use of grass
Makeovers don’t require the elimination of all grass. Instead, grass is retained where it is most useful and practical.
“We didn’t want to eliminate all the turf because it’s nice to have some usable grass area, especially in a park like this,” said Hynd. “We decided to break up sections not only to maximize the usable space of grass to keep for the residents but then provide a nice native garden where we could benefit from the rebates, benefit from the low water use, and still create a very beautiful space.”
LOS staff analyzes estimated water and cost savings, which helps decision-makers justify the investment with an understanding of how quickly the project will pay for itself. The program also offers discounted designs to participants.
The enhanced incentives include rebates for turf replacement, smart controller stations, rain barrels, and cisterns. In addition to offering technical assistance to upgrade larger landscapes on multifamily and commercial properties, a cost-share is available for agricultural growers to make water-saving upgrades.
More information on the Landscape Optimization Service: www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/dpw/watersheds/RebatesIncentives/LOS.html
(Editor’s Note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego region.)