Efficient Irrigation Delivers Water While Protecting Plants

Due to the lack of rainfall in the San Diego region, even sustainable landscaping sometimes relies on artificial irrigation. Irrigation systems must be thoughtfully designed, installed, and programmed. Once in place, the many interconnected mechanical elements must be maintained properly for optimal performance.

“Irrigation efficiency” is a way of describing how well your irrigation system is doing its job delivering water for the beneficial use of the plants in your landscaping.

Lawn Sprinkler

Water-Use Efficiency Rebates for a WaterSmart Home

Rebates are available for San Diego County residents seeking to reduce their water use and water bills, as drought persists across the Southwest U.S. The second year of drought, and a statewide call for water-use conservation, makes this an ideal time to be “WaterSmart.”

Outdoor water-efficiency rebates

Outdoor water use is 53% of the water used by residential properties. Most of that water is applied to keep grass green. There are a variety of rebates and classes that can help you upgrade your turf landscape to a beautiful sustainable, water-saving landscape. To learn more, visit Available rebates include:

  • Turf Removal – Rebates start at $3 per square foot for qualifying projects that replace grass with landscapes that incorporate water-saving plants, irrigation system upgrades and rainwater capture.
  • Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers – Rebates start at $80 for controllers that automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to account for changing weather, soil conditions and plant types. For landscapes large than one acre, rebates start at $35 per station. Homeowners can save 8,800 gallons of water annually by replacing a standard clock timer with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller.
  • Rain Barrels – Rebates start at $35 for up to two rain barrels, or $250-$350 for a cistern to collect rainwater for later use, while minimizing the amount of water flowing into storm drains, sewer systems and local waterways.
  • Soil Moisture Sensor Systems – Rebates start at $80 on sensors for landscapes less than one acre and $35 per irrigation station for larger sites.
  • Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles – Rebates start at $2 per nozzle for nozzles that apply water slowly and uniformly to prevent over-watering and encourage healthy plant growth. Participants must buy at least 30 nozzles from the list of qualified products.
  • Flow Monitoring/Leak Detection Devices – Rebates start at $100 for qualifying models that monitor your home’s water use and can help detect leaks.
  • Unincorporated Areas – Residents and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County are eligible for increased water-use efficiency rebates under a new partnership between the County’s Watershed Protection Program and the San Diego County Water Authority. Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at:

Indoor water-efficiency rebates

Indoor water use makes up 47% of water used on residential properties. A homeowner can save four gallons of water during every shower by replacing showerheads with WaterSense-labeled models. Available indoor rebates include:

  • Premium High-Efficiency Toilets – Rebates start at $40 for toilets that use 1.1. gallons per flush from the qualified list. Toilets make up 30% of a typical home’s indoor water use.
  • High-Efficiency Clothes Washers – Rebates start at $85 for washers. Qualified products are listed at com and additional rebates may be available from San Diego Gas and Electric at High-efficiency washers have a 55% water savings and 25% energy savings.
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Ten tips to live WaterSmart. Graphic: San Diego County Water Authority

Free landscape makeover classes and resources

The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program will help you create an outdoor space that loves San Diego as much as you do! The classes and videos offer the skills, knowledge, and confidence to turn turf areas into outdoor rooms that will thrive in San Diego County’s climate. The four-class series is taught by local landscape professionals who focus on creating actionable design, planting, and irrigation plans for each participant’s landscape.

Three-hour virtual workshops are also available and focus on various landscape topics with a “do-it-yourself” approach. The Landscape Makeover Videos on Demand series mirrors the content of the four-class series, taking homeowners step-by-step through the process of creating water-efficient landscapes. Twenty short, entertaining videos cover topics ranging from soil health and plant selection to rainwater harvesting.

Free WaterSmart checkup

Homeowners who would like advice on lowering their water use, adjusting their irrigation controller, or upgrading their irrigation system can schedule a free on-site WaterSmart checkup by going to A WaterSmart Checkup is an opportunity to receive free, site-specific water-saving recommendations. Homeowners benefit from the perspective of certified irrigation professionals and decide if and when to implement the suggestions. There is no obligation. Savings can top 20%.

The Water Authority’s Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper Program trains professionals in water-efficient landscape principles and practices, including soils, plant selection, irrigation systems, and scheduling specific to the region. They’ll help you upgrade and maintain your landscape with a focus on the San Diego climate. To find a pro in your area go to

WaterSmart living may not only save money, but create vibrant yards, reduce energy use, protect natural resources, reduce landscape maintenance, and improve property values. It also creates a shared sense of purpose about how San Diegans use their limited water supplies — in a word, WaterSmart.

Interior Secretary: Drought Demands Investment, Conservation

Confronting the historic drought that has a firm grip on the American West requires a heavy federal infrastructure investment to protect existing water supplies but also will depend on efforts at all levels of government to reduce demand by promoting water efficiency and recycling, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Thursday.

Haaland told reporters in Denver that the Biden administration’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget includes a $1.5 billion investment in the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the Western states, and more than $54 million for states, tribes and communities to upgrade infrastructure and water planning projects.

Native Plants Highlight Sweetwater Landscape Contest Winner

Chula Vista resident Paul Rodriguez gave up struggling to maintain his thirsty green lawn in favor of a new landscape design featuring California native plants and shrubs. The Sweetwater Authority Board of Directors selected Rodriguez’s makeover as its 2021 Landscape Makeover winner.

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Over $2.7 Million in Federal Grants Awarded to San Diego Water Agencies

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded three San Diego County water agencies a total of $2,788,500 in 2021 WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. A total of $42.4 million in grants was given to 55 projects across 13 states to improve water reliability and efficiency, conserving more 98,000 acre-feet of water per year.

“The Water Authority and its member agencies have been leaders in helping customers improve water efficiency, which ultimately helps our communities become more resilient to both dry years and the large-scale impacts of climate change,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “This grant money is added value for our region as we continue to do our part for people and the planet.”

Projects awarded grants in San Diego County

  • The City of Oceanside’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure and Pipeline Improvement Project (Phase III) — $2,000,000 grant. The project includes upgrades to 11,519 existing primarily residential water meters to smart meters connected to the city’s customer feedback portal. Approximately 62 broken and leaking pipe segments will also be replaced. Website:
  • Olivenhain Municipal Water District Advanced Metering Infrastructure Water Use Efficiency Project — $500,000 grant. The project will expand advanced metering infrastructure with the installation of 4,181 meter transmitting units on existing AMI-capable meters. The meters will be integrated with the district’s customer engagement portal to provide customers near real-time water-use data. Website:
  • San Diego County Water Authority WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program — $288,500 grant. The project will expand an existing rebate program for irrigation devices, including smart irrigation controllers and high-efficiency nozzles. The expanded program will encourage large landscape and commercial customers to install an estimated 8,000 stations for smart irrigation controllers, 330 irrigation controllers, 18,000 high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles, 75 flow sensors, and 30,000 square feet of drip irrigated landscaping. Website:

The Bureau of Reclamation grants support the new Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad to increase resilience to climate change impacts. The agency’s WaterSMART program works cooperatively with states, tribes, and local entities to plan and implement actions that increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts.

Water Authority Helps Farmers Boost Water Efficiency

Agriculture is a rich part of San Diego County’s heritage and a foundational piece of the region’s economy, but it’s not easy to make a go of farming here given the hilly terrain, uneven soils and limited natural water supplies.

That’s where the San Diego County Water Authority comes in. The region’s wholesale water agency has funded more than 2,300 free irrigation system evaluations for farmers on more than 35,000 acres of avocados, citrus, field flowers, and other fruits and ornamentals since 1991.

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Lawn Rebates for Fall Planting Season

Fall planting season is underway and a great time to take advantage of rebates for replacing your lawn.

“Fall is like a second spring for planting in our region and it’s also a great opportunity for residents to take advantage of some outdoor incentives as they replace grass with climate appropriate plants,” said Joni German, water resources specialist at the San Diego County Water Authority.

Lawn replacement rebates

Turf replacement rebates of $3 per square foot are available for residents in the Water Authority service area, she said. The rebates include $2 per square foot from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, with an additional $1 per square foot from the Water Authority, for up to 5,000 square feet of lawn converted in front or back yard.

German suggests residential customers use the rebate estimator to determine the amount they would receive for removing their turf.

“For example, if San Diego residents are removing 1,000 square feet of turf, their rebate will be $3,000 – $2,000 from MWD and $1,000 from the Water Authority,” said German.

Turf rebates-November 2020-before-fall planting

BEFORE: This homeowner took advantage of rebates to transform the front yard into a colorful landscape with climate-appropriate plants. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority.

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AFTER: This homeowner took advantage of turf rebates to transform the front yard with climate-appropriate plants. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority.

Free landscape makeover help

For landscape makeover assistance, German encourages residents to visit, the Water Authority’s conservation website, and take advantage of free landscape education through the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. This program assists homeowners with landscape transformations through a variety of virtual formats including:

  • Three-hour workshops
  • Four-class series
  • Videos on demand

Homeowners can also visit the website to find landscape resources such as free onsite audits, finding a landscape professional, rebates on indoor and outdoor water saving devices, links to programming irrigation controllers, an online plant database and how to install a rain barrel.

Other water-saving practices include turning off irrigation systems when rainstorms are predicted (and leave them off for at least a week after significant rainfall) and installing rain barrels or cisterns to help capture stormwater from roofs and store it for future irrigation use.

“Adjusting irrigation is an easy way to increase water efficiency, since landscapes need less water as the days get shorter and cooler,” said German.

Rebates are also available for weather-based irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rain barrels or cisterns. There are also incentives for commercial customers to increase their water efficiency, with indoor and outdoor rebates. The rebates are processed through SoCal WaterSmart.

WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program Benefits San Elijo HOA

A major landscape makeover is helping a San Diego County neighborhood save money during these uncertain economic times. The WaterSmart Contractor Incentive Program helps qualified landscape contractors as well as large homeowners associations, save money and improve water-use efficiency in large landscapes by retrofitting irrigation devices.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Olivenhain Water and Encinitas Fire Offer Free Online Firewise Landscaping Workshop

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District and Encinitas Fire Department invite the public to attend a free online
workshop on October 13 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The workshop will cover how to landscape homes and businesses
in a way that protects them from fire damage and improves water efficiency.

WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winner Creates Wildlife Habitat

The winner of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest created a wildlife habitat by removing grass and replacing it with climate-appropriate plants. The District’s Board of Directors honored Laura Lisauskas as the winner of the contest during its September 9 meeting.