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The Jamacha Park Homeowners Association in Rancho San Diego is a 2024 MWD One Water Award recipient for its landscape makeover project. Photo: MSE Landscaping

Jamacha Park HOA Wins Award For Landscape Makeover Project

The Jamacha Park Homeowners Association in Rancho San Diego is the region’s latest showcase for low-water landscaping after receiving one of four One Water Awards from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Accessible walkways bring residents closer to nature as part of its new landscaping. Photo: MSE Landscape

Accessible walkways bring residents closer to nature as part of its new landscaping. Photo: MSE Landscape

The awards recognize large-scale improvements to facilities and landscapes that achieve significant water savings. The four projects honored in early May are expected to save 200 million gallons of water annually. Projects are also recognized for technology innovations, environmental stewardship, and their focus on water sustainability.

Jamacha Park is a 64-home community. The HOA worked with MWD, the San Diego County Water Authority, and the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program to replace 58,000 square feet of grass with sustainable landscaping, including climate-appropriate plants.

(L to R): Debby Dunn, San Diego County Water Authority; Mike Seymour, MSE Landscape; Brian Faris, Monarch Environmental; Scott Norris, County of San Diego; Matt Davenport, Monarch Environmental; Chad Praul, Environmental Incentives; and Tenille Otero, Otay Water District. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California landscape makeover project

(L to R): Debby Dunn, San Diego County Water Authority; Mike Seymour, MSE Landscape; Brian Faris, Monarch Environmental; Scott Norris, County of San Diego; Matt Davenport, Monarch Environmental; Chad Praul, Environmental Incentives; and Tenille Otero, Otay Water District. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“I hope the project that we have done will show other communities what is possible. There is a way to get water savings and still have a beautiful landscape everyone can enjoy,” said Jamacha Park HOA Board President Mary Kay Sieckman.

The HOA board, community residents, and landscape professionals worked together on the landscape makeover. The newly beautified community spaces are accessible to all residents while reducing water use.

Jamacha Park leaders achieve a long-time goal

Sieckman said the HOA learned about these programs through its property management company. “When the board members heard about it, they jumped at it. They were very excited because it would be a step forward toward a long-time goal we knew needed to be done.”

See a video featuring Jamacha Park HOA Board President Mary Kay Sieckman describing the landscape makeover process.

 

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually.

The Jamacha Park HOA received funding and assistance through MWD’s Turf Replacement Rebate Program available through the Water Authority and the County’s Landscape Optimization Service. Working with the County’s Watershed Protection Program, residences and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County can be eligible for enhanced water-use efficiency rebates.

The Jamacha Park HOA achieved significant water savings with its landscape makeover project. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California/Screenshot

The Jamacha Park HOA achieved significant water savings with its landscape makeover project. Photo: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California/Screenshot

“We have accomplished something with the help of all these agencies. It shows to the community you can save water and still have a beautiful landscape. You don’t have to rely on grass for everything,” Sieckman said.

County Landscape Optimization Service can assist customers with landscape upgrades

The Jamacha Park community's landscaping before its makeover. Photo: MSE Landscape/Screenshot

The Jamacha Park community’s landscaping before its makeover. Photo: MSE Landscape/Screenshot

To make the process of applying for rebates easier and maximize the return on investment, the County added a Landscape Optimization Service (LOS), a unique technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects. It is part of the Waterscape Rebate Program, which helps residential, commercial, and agricultural customers in unincorporated areas to make landscape upgrades that improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually. Phoro: MSE Landscape

The project has been so successful that the HOA plans to replace additional turf, eventually removing a total 100,000 square feet of grass for a potential water savings of 4 million gallons annually. Phoro: MSE Landscape

County of San Diego Land Use Environmental Planning Manager Scott Norris says the LOS program helps applicants navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers to participation, and maximize their eligibility. “Often HOAs just need a bit of help to get started. We have worked with more than a dozen HOAs and more than half are coming back to complete additional turf removal projects because they see the value for their communities.”

Multiple benefits from sustainable landscapes

Dry riverbeds add interest and help manage stormwater runoff. Photo: MSE Landscape

Dry riverbeds help manage stormwater runoff. Photo: MSE Landscape

Sustainable landscapes produce multiple benefits including reduced water use, enhanced biodiversity, increased stormwater retention, and decreased run-off.

IMPACT:

  • 58,000 square feet of turf removed
  • 270,000-gallon reduction in irrigation runoff annually
  • 12% savings in water use in the first year
  • $232,000 in utility incentives
New landscape features include boulders framing walkways. Photo: MSE Landscape

New landscape features include boulders framing walkways. Photo: MSE Landscape

Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates. More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here. The program is currently recruiting new participants.

The Waterscape Rebate Program helps to protect local waterways by reducing pollutants that enter storm drains. When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall. Reducing turf helps reduce irrigation use and runoff. HOA landscapes are potentially significant contributors.

The County Watershed Protection Program is currently seeking new applicants. Photo: MSE Landscape

The County Watershed Protection Program is currently seeking new applicants. Photo: MSE Landscape

The program includes outreach and education to commercial, industrial, and residential properties in unincorporated areas of the county. In addition, the County is offering rebate programs for upgrades, including rain gardens, gutters, permeable pavement, and regular septic system pumping.

Learn more about the County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program at its website.

 

 

Vermiculture and vermicomposting using earthworms to help you turn kitchen scraps into compost has multiple environmental benefits including the prevention of stormwater runoff. Photo: Sippakorn Yamkasikorn/PixabayCC

Worms Boost WaterSmart Landscaping

One of the most valuable tools for managing water retention and avoiding stormwater runoff while improving your landscaping soil harnesses the power of worms – earthworks, to be specific.

Vermiculture and vermicomposting are eco-friendly tools using earthworms to transform organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. This process benefits gardeners and the environment.

In the San Diego region, spring’s mild weather is an ideal time to start vermicomposting. Moderate temperatures facilitate optimal worm activity and compost processing. During the hotter summer months, compost bins must be kept in cooler, shaded areas to prevent overheating and ensure worm survival.

Vallecitos Water District 2023 Landscape Contest winner Dean Williams of Carlsbad is a big believer in vermiculture and vermicomposting. In this video, he shows how easy it is to learn how to put worms to work in your landscaping.

Understanding Vermiculture and Vermicomposting

Vermiculture refers to the cultivation of earthworms. The normal activity of earthworms breaks down organic waste. The result is vermicompost, also known as worm castings, a highly nutritious form of compost.

Vermicomposting is the practice of using earthworms to convert organic wastes into high-quality compost and worm castings. This method is an efficient, odorless, and space-saving way to recycle kitchen scraps, keeping them out of landfills where they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

How Using Worms Works

Adding common kitchen food waste to your vermicomposting system keeps it out of our landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. Photo: Sarah Chai/Pexels

Adding common kitchen food waste to your vermicomposting system keeps it out of our landfills where it produces greenhouse gases. Photo: Sarah Chai/Pexels

As the video shows, setting up a vermicomposting bin is simple and can be done indoors or outdoors. The bin is stocked with material such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, or coconut coir and stocked with earthworms. When organic waste is added, such as food scraps, weeds, or plant trimmings, the worms digest this material and convert it into compost.

Recommended types of worms for vermicomposting are red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and red earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus). Both thrive in compost bins and are efficient at processing waste.

Vermicomposting’s Environmental Benefits

Nutrient-rich compost produced by vermiculture helps soil retain rainwater in your garden, preventing it from picking up pollutants and washing them into stormdrains. Photo: Pixabay/CC

Nutrient-rich compost produced by vermiculture helps soil retain rainwater in your garden, preventing it from picking up pollutants and washing them into storm drains. Photo: Pixabay/CC

Vermicomposting helps protect the watershed and preserves soil in several ways.

  • Safe, Nutrient-Rich Soil Amendment: Vermicompost improves soil structure and enhances nutrient availability. It can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Water Conservation: By improving soil structure and water retention, vermicompost helps conserve water.
  • Stormwater Runoff: Healthy, vermicompost-amended soils absorb water more efficiently. It lessens the amount of runoff washing pollutants into watersheds.
  • Waste Reduction: Vermicomposting diverts organic waste from landfills, helping avoid the production and release of greenhouse gases.

San Diego County Vermiculture Resources

Residents looking for more information and resources can visit the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation website. The Center also holds classes in vermiculture. Check the schedule for available classes.

The County of San Diego also offers information on vermiculture, and offers a compost bin discount program.

Smart Water Management

As vermicompost increases the ground’s capacity to absorb rainwater, it lessens the burden on stormwater management systems. With less water flowing into stormwater drainage systems, vermiculture helps diminish flood risks.

Vermiculture and vermicomposting offer a holistic approach to environmental stewardship for San Diego residents. It’s an easy, practical way for individuals to help preserve resources, enhance soil health, and support sustainable gardening. Vermiculture and vermicomposting offer simple tools to confront the challenges of climate change, including risks to our region’s long-term water supply.

Brad Lefkowitz's family friendly watershed inspired design is the winner of the 2023 Olivenhain Municipal Water District Landscape Makeover Content for 2023. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Family Friendly Watershed Approach Wins Olivenhain MWD 2023 Landscape Makeover Contest

By taking a watershed approach to his landscape redesign, homeowner Brad Lefkowits won the Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s 2023 Landscape Makeover Contest.

Even the family dog feels right at home in the winning design. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Even the family dog feels right at home in the winning design. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Lefkowits was recognized at the June 21 OMWD Board of Directors meeting. The WaterSmart Landscape Contest is held annually by water agencies throughout San Diego County. Entries highlight colorful and lush landscapes that use less water than turf-heavy landscapes. Winning entries exhibit an appealing design, climate-appropriate plant selection, and water-efficient irrigation.

Landscape Contest Winner Brad Lefkowits receives his award from Olivenhain Municipal Water District Board Chairperson Christy Guerin at the June board meeting. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Landscape Contest Winner Brad Lefkowits receives his award from Olivenhain Municipal Water District Board President Christy Guerin at the June board meeting. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Water is a precious, limited resource in California where the next dry period could be right around the corner,” said OMWD Board Treasurer Neal Meyers. “We encourage our customers to continue to increase outdoor water use efficiency, and replacing large turf areas with drought-tolerant plants could cut a home’s outdoor water use in half.”

Family-friendly and water-efficient

The landscape design features the generous use of swales to capture and hold rainwater to prevent runoff. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The landscape design features the generous use of swales to capture and hold rainwater to prevent runoff. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Lefkowits says his goal was to keep as much rainwater on the Encinitas property as possible using a watershed-inspired landscape design. He captures rainwater in a 530-gallon cistern and sends overflow into a series of connected swales. Swales are shallow, broad channels designed to store water runoff. They are easy to incorporate into landscaping at a minimal cost. The swales in the Lefkowits’ yard can hold over an inch of rain without any leaving the property.

Minimizing water runoff to streets reduces the amount of pollutants carried into storm drains and eventually into the ocean.

Both native plants and Mediterranean climate plants are incorporated into the winning design. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Both native plants and Mediterranean climate plants are incorporated into the winning design. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Lefkowits included both native plants and attractive and hardy plants from other Mediterranean climates around the world in his landscape. He installed a 300-square-foot lawn for two sons and the family dog, using a mix of California Buffalo Grass and native Carex praegracilis. It only needs to be watered once a week.

While Lefkowits uses high-efficiency rotating sprinkler nozzles for the small lawn, all other areas are irrigated with an in-line drip system.

The result is a yard with multiple uses and surprises around every turn. It has a lush appearance and still accommodates family activities without using grass requiring much water.

The finished project offers something for every member of the Lefkowitz family to enjoy. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The finished project offers something for every member of the Lefkowitz family to enjoy. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

(Editor’s note: The Olivenhain Municipal Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the San Diego County region.) 

Before and after views of the Lake San Marocs Mall III Homeowners Association makeover. Photo: Vallecitos Water District makeover conserves water

Makeovers Conserve Water, Saves Costs for Lake San Marcos HOAs

Through a partnership between the Vallecitos Water District, San Diego County Water Authority, and the County of San Diego, landscape makeover projects in unincorporated areas can take advantage of water-use efficiency rebates as well as professional expertise to maximize conservation and cost savings.

The Waterscape Rebate Program applies to residential, commercial, and agricultural customers who make landscape upgrades to improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

The landscape makeover project solicited input from homeowners to provide new amenities. Photo: Vallecitos Water District makeover conserves water

The landscape makeover project solicited input from homeowners to provide new amenities. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Multiple homeowners associations within the Lake San Marcos area of the Vallecitos Water District have benefitted from qualifying projects. The scale of these projects and potential savings make them especially successful.

The most recently completed project within the Vallecitos Water District was undertaken by the Mall III Homeowners Association. HOA members had discussed the idea for nearly 15 years. The availability of the County and Vallecitos Water District support helped determine whether the makeover would be effective and cost-neutral.

Agency partnerships pay off

“This has been a terrific partnership between the County of San Diego, the San Diego County Water Authority, the Vallecitos Water District, and the community of Lake San Marcos,” said Chris Robbins, public information/conservation supervisor for the Vallecitos Water District. “This story focuses on the Mall III Homeowners Association, but the Panorama HOA and Sunrise Pointe HOA already participated in the program. Two other associations, Fairway Knolls and Fairways HOA, are currently in the process right now. All these HOAs will be saving water and money, while also improving the water quality of Lake San Marcos.”

The Mall III HOA landscaping before undertaking its recent makeover project. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Mall III HOA landscaping before undertaking its recent makeover project. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Mike Kesler, Mall III HOA Board President, said getting an internal consensus among their homeowners through actively soliciting ideas from homeowners to learn what was important to them was critical in completing this project.

“We found some folks wanted trees. Other folks didn’t want trees because they would block the view,” said Kesler. “Knowing that ahead of time and being able to deal with that in the plan made it easier for people to vote yes on the project. And I think that’s important.

“It took us quite a while to get to a layout that accomplished our goals of saving money and beautifying the area that was net zero from a cost standpoint.”

Consensus building accomplishes savings goals

New pathways and riverbeds to channel water runoff help protect area watersheds. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

New pathways and riverbeds to channel water runoff help protect area watersheds. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

To make applying for rebates easier for large landscapes, the County added a Landscape Optimization Service, a unique technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs and commercial properties, to navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers, and maximize their rebate eligibility.

In addition, the Vallecitos Water District offers its customers a free assessment of current water use to determine whether investments in irrigation upgrades could be helpful to help HOA boards and other decision-makers determine whether their investment in landscaping projects are cost-effective.

“It’s been a great program for us to pursue and to implement, ” said Mall III HOA Board Member Dave Engel. “We had a need to save water, and to do it in a smart way, which is what this rebate program allows. When those two come together, I think it’s a good match.”

Rebate programs helped to make the Lake San Marcos Mall III HOA project cost-neutral for homeowners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Rebate programs helped to make the Lake San Marcos Mall III HOA project cost-neutral for homeowners. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Rebate amounts can vary. Multiple rebates can be stacked together, including $3 per square foot for turf replacement, $60 per smart controller station, $65 per rain barrel and up to $450 per cistern. The County of San Diego offers $1 per square foot for landscapes planted with California native plants.

Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at: SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates. More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here. The program is actively recruiting new participants.

The Waterscape Rebate Program helps protect local waterways by reducing pollutants that enter storm drains. When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall. Reducing turf helps reduce irrigation use and runoff. HOA landscapes are potentially significant contributors.

Learn more about the County of San Diego Watershed Protection at its website.

(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 County region.) 

New LA County Project Will Help Collect, Keep More Water After Big Storms

After another big storm this week we will see much of the rainwater flowing out to the ocean instead of being captured for use.

Los Angeles County officials say saving more of this water will be key for dealing with drought.

The Panorama HOA in Lake San Marcos achieved beautiful results from its landscaping makeover project, which will conserve water and preserve the region's watershed. Photo: Vallecitos Water DistrictHOA landscape makeover

Lake San Marcos HOA Landscape Makeovers Benefit From County Watershed Restoration Program

Lake San Marcos area homeowners associations are conserving water and helping restore the area’s watershed with support from the County of San Diego’s Watershed Rebate program. The rebate program is part of the County’s Watershed Protection Program.

An example of the transformation of the Panorama HOA landscaping. Photos: Vallecitos Water District

An example of the transformation of the Panorama HOA landscaping. Photos: Vallecitos Water District

Through a partnership between the program and the San Diego County Water Authority, residences and businesses in unincorporated areas of San Diego County are eligible for enhanced water-use efficiency rebates. The Waterscape Rebate Program saves money for residential, commercial, and agricultural customers who make landscape upgrades to improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

The Panorama HOA in Lake San Marcos is one of six HOAs in the Vallecitos Water District participating in the program. The project is featured in a new video produced by Vallecitos.

Partnership working to meet drought challenges

“While droughts are cyclical, now they’re hotter and drier and lasting a lot longer,” said Joni German, water resources specialist at the Water Authority. “The Water Authority looks to our partners like the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program to help us meet these challenges.”

“This project here in Lake San Marcos is a great example of a successful turf conversion project, supported by multiple agencies through the Landscape Optimization Service, said German. “Panorama HOA removed 30,000 square feet of thirsty turf and replaced it with sustainable landscaping, including 14,000 square feet of native landscape.”

Multiple benefits from HOA landscape makeovers

Removing turf yields multiple benefits including water conservation, watershed protection, and potential cost savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District HOA landscape makeovers

Removing turf yields multiple benefits including water conservation, watershed protection, and potential cost savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Sustainable landscapes produce multiple benefits, which include reducing water use, enhancing habitat, increasing stormwater retention, and decreasing runoff.

To make applying for rebates easier for large landscapes, the County created the Landscape Optimization Service (LOS), a unique technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs and commercial properties, to navigate the requirements, overcome any barriers, and maximize their rebate eligibility.

“It’s a service offered free to large landscapes. It helps them get the most from the rebates that are available,” said Jamie Milani, land use planner for the Watershed Protection Program. “Throughout the process, we are always here for our customers. If there’s ever any challenges with the rebate application process, we’re here to help.”

The new landscaping uses California native plants, which are eligible for an additional rebate. Photo: Vallecitos Water District HOA landscape makeovers

The new landscaping uses California native plants, which are eligible for an additional rebate. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

LOS staff analyzes estimated water and cost savings, including anticipated rebate totals, which helps decision-makers justify the investment with an understanding of how quickly the project will pay for itself. The program also offers discounted landscape design services to participants.

Rebate amounts can vary. Multiple rebates can be stacked together, including $3 per square foot for turf replacement, $60 per smart controller station, $65 per rain barrel, and up to $450 per cistern. The County program also offers $1 per square foot for landscapes planted with California native plants.

Positive feedback from Panorama HOA on program participation

Jack Rush. Vice President of Operations for O'Connell Landscape Maintenance. discusses the makeover plan with Panorama HOA president Amber Rugghanti. Photo: Vallecitos Water District HOA landscape makeovers

Jack Rush, vice president of operations for O’Connell Landscape Maintenance, discusses the makeover plan with Panorama HOA President Amber Rugghanti. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Panorama HOA President Amber Ragghanti said members decided to participate in the program due to its landscaping aging out and the opportunity to secure assistance from the program, along with the rebates.

“The residents at Panorama were really happy with the process, especially because there was no cost,” said Ragghanti. “A lot of the people living here are also concerned about saving water.”

Ragghanti encourages other qualified HOAs to look into the program. “It’s been such a benefit. It’s been easy. The whole process has been a lot smoother than I thought it would be. I would recommend it to anybody.”

Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at: WatershedRebates. More information on the Landscape Optimization Service can be found here.

When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause adverse effects. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Waterscape Rebate Program helps protect local waterways by reducing pollutants that enter storm drains. When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Reducing turf helps reduce irrigation use and runoff.

(Editors Note:  Story updated March 22, 2023. The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

As Climate Change Erodes Western Snowpacks, One Watershed Tries a ‘Supershed Approach’ to Shield its Water Supply

The foundation of California’s water supply and the catalyst for the state’s 20th century population and economic growth is cracking. More exactly, it’s disappearing.

Climate change is eroding the mountain snowpack that has traditionally melted in the spring and summer to fill rivers and reservoirs across the West.

Now, with less precipitation falling as snow and that snow melting faster and earlier in parts of major mountain ranges like California’s Sierra Nevada and the Rockies in the West, managers of a major Sierra Nevada watershed east of Sacramento are replumbing their water systems to better handle bursts of rain instead of trickling snowmelt. Their “Supershed Approach” to replace the loss of the once-reliable snowmelt is being touted as a possible model for other Western watersheds that are expected to experience stronger, more frequent snow droughts.

Opinion: Four Strategies for Managing California’s Crucial Watershed

Conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed are changing as droughts become warmer and more intense. But as our new study highlights, California is not doing a good job of tracking these changes. That’s making it even tougher to manage the water that is available for the benefit of the state’s communities, economy and environment.

Water Conservation-A side by side look at before and after photos of the Rancho San Diego Association landscape renovation, completed with assistance from the County's Landscape Optimization Service. Photos: Courtesy Rancho San Diego HOA

Spring Valley HOA and Watershed Benefit From Landscape Optimization Service

Conserving water and reducing pollution are two of many benefits from a new program in San Diego County.

Through a partnership between the County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program and the San Diego County Water Authority, residences and businesses in unincorporated areas of the county became eligible for newly enhanced water-use efficiency rebates in 2021. The Waterscape Rebate Program saves money for residential, commercial, and agricultural customers who make landscape upgrades to improve the region’s climate resilience and reduce the flow of pollutants into waterways.

The new concierge-style assistance program helped members of a Spring Valley homeowners association benefit from available incentives and rebates. As a result, residents saved money on landscape upgrades while reducing the flow of pollution into waterways and conserving water.

Rancho San Diego Association, the first HOA to complete a project through the program and a customer of Otay Water District and Helix Water District, replaced nearly 40,000 square feet of unused grass and installed smart irrigation timers. Photo: Courtesy Rancho San Diego Association

Rancho San Diego Association, the first HOA to complete a project through the program and a customer of Otay Water District and Helix Water District, replaced nearly 40,000 square feet of unused grass and installed smart irrigation timers. Photo: Courtesy Rancho San Diego Association

To make applying for rebates easier for large landscapes, the county added a Landscape Optimization Service, a unique technical assistance program for large-scale landscaping projects. The program helps applicants with large landscapes, such as HOAs and commercial properties, navigate the requirements, overcome barriers, and maximize their rebate eligibility.

LOS staff analyzes estimated water and cost savings, which details how quickly the project will pay for itself. The program also offers discounted designs to participants.

The finished project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. Their total project costs prior to the rebate were approximately $120,000. After the rebates, the HOA paid just $13,000 for the project. Photo: Courtesy Rancho San Diego Association Landscape Optimization ServiceThe finished project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. Their total project costs prior to the rebate were approximately $120,000. After the rebates, the HOA paid just $13,000 for the project. Photo: Courtesy Rancho San Diego Association Landscape Optimization Service

The finished project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. Their total project costs prior to the rebate were approximately $120,000. After the rebates, the HOA paid just $13,000 for the project. Photo: Courtesy Rancho San Diego Association

VIDEO: Learn more about the program and see the Rancho San Diego HOA transformation

First of its kind assistance program

“Many of our larger customers, such as HOAs, are run by volunteers who don’t have the time or resources to undertake large landscape projects,” said Joni German, Water Resources Specialist at the Water Authority. “Most of their landscapes were put in during the 1970s, and many are ready for a water-efficient upgrade. This partnership with the County enables us to offer HOA customers a first-of-its-kind program with assistance from start to finish.”

Rancho San Diego Association, the first HOA to complete a project through the program and a customer of Otay Water District and Helix Water District, replaced nearly 40,000 square feet of unused grass and installed smart irrigation timers. The project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. Total costs prior to the rebate were estimated at $120,000. After rebates, the HOA paid $13,000 for the project.

Currently, seven San Diego County HOAs are working through the process of removing common area grass with the support of County of San Diego contractor Environmental Incentives.

Their project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. Their total project costs prior to the rebate were approximately $120,000. After the rebates, the HOA paid just $13,000 for the project.

The project is estimated to reduce water use by almost two million gallons annually. The total project costs prior to the rebate were approximately $120,000. After rebates, the HOA paid $13,000 for the project.

“The County is proud to partner with HOAs, like the Rancho San Diego Association, to help protect local waterways by transitioning to a more sustainable landscape,” said Scott Norris, Land Use Environmental Planning Manager with the County Water Protection Program. “We look forward to expanding the Landscape Optimization Service in the coming years to assist more properties in upgrading their outdoor space and helping protect water quality.”

Sustainable landscapes produce multiple benefits, which include reducing water use, enhancing habitat, increasing stormwater retention, and decreasing runoff.

The enhanced incentives include rebates starting at $3 per square foot for turf replacement, $60 per smart controller station, $65 per rain barrel, and up to $450 per cistern. 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.

Water customers in unincorporated San Diego County can determine their eligibility at SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates. The Landscape Optimization Service is actively recruiting new participants.

Protecting our watershed by conserving water

The Waterscape Rebate Program helps to protect local waterways by reducing pollutants that enter storm drains. When irrigation systems overflow from landscaping, runoff may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same adverse effects as runoff from rainfall. Reducing turf helps reduce irrigation use and runoff.

The program includes outreach and education to commercial, industrial, and residential properties in unincorporated areas of the county. San Diego County is also offering programs with rebates for upgrades, including rain gardens, gutters, permeable pavement, and regular septic system pumping.

(Editor’s note: The Helix Water District and Otay Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

A Watershed Moment

A “mega-drought” across the Southwest will force the federal government to declare a water shortage on the Colorado River this month. The decision would be historic for the watershed, which serves 40 million people in seven states: California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The river system provides irrigation that turns desert into farmland and is an important source of drinking water and hydroelectric power. The looming first-ever declaration will be triggered when the country’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, dips below a certain level.