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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 WaterSmartSD.org. 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: SanDiegoCounty.gov/WatershedRebates.

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 sdge.com. High-efficiency washers have a 55% water savings and 25% energy savings.
10 WaterSmart Tips-Drought-Water-efficiency rebates

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 WaterSmartCheckup.org. 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 qwel.net.

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.

Trio of Waterwise Landscapes Win Vista 2021 Contest

Three homeowners in the Vista Irrigation District won recognition recently from the VID board of directors in its 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient irrigation methods.

Setting Objectives for Waterwise Landscaping Success

It takes time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape. Once you have these concepts mastered, the most important step of all comes next.  Consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden for landscaping success.

It might be difficult to know where to start. Many people accept an ocean of green but thirsty lawn and never give much thought to landscaping goals. Consider one of these worthy objectives.

Lauren Grey's new landscaping filled with vibrant blooming plants is the 2021 Vista Irrigation District Landscape Makeover Contest winner. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

Trio of Waterwise Landscapes Win Vista 2021 Contest

Three homeowners in the Vista Irrigation District won recognition recently from the VID board of directors in its 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient irrigation methods.

Lauren Grey's landscaping before its winning makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

Lauren Grey’s landscaping before its winning makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Winning plan solves erosion problem with beautiful blooms

The “Best in District” award went to Lauren Grey. What started as a project to halt the rush of soil down a steep front slope turned into a multi-hued garden with a view from the top. Grey renovated her front slope and landscape by installing retaining walls surrounded by beds of colorful blooms. She lined the staircase zigzagging through the hillside with a variety of potted succulents. Bright orange poppies, lush green jade, silvery Ghost Plants, and Purple Heart Tradescantia dot the slope.

Lauren Grey’s landscaping solved her problems with a troublesome slope. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

The winning result is an explosion of color. “What fun to have a beautiful garden and a sweet place to sit and contemplate it all!” said Grey.

“With rebates available for turf removal, now is a great time to replace your lawn with a beautiful WaterSmart landscape,” said Brent Reyes, VID water conservation specialist.

Drought-tolerant results receive recognition

Homeowners Deborah Brandt and Dorothy Wagemester received honorable mentions for their outstanding projects.

The "before" look at the Wagemester landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

The “before” look at the Wagemester landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

The Wagemesters wanted to conserve water and create an inviting natural haven on their property. A meandering hardscape pathway lined with a vibrant palette of drought-tolerant choices, including bougainvillea, trailing buttercups, sea lavender, and Cape plumbago replaced turf with a native garden.

The Wagemester home's attractive new waterwise landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

The Wagemester home’s attractive new waterwise landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Magenta blooms of an Eastern Redbud tree pop against foxtail agaves and Kaleidoscope Abelia.

“While spring is our favorite season, we now have color all year long,” said Dorothy Wagemester.

Deborah Brandt's landscaping before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

Deborah Brandt’s landscaping before its makeover. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt wanted to transform her plain backyard into a magical place. She started with river rock and added cactus and succulents in multiple shapes and sizes. Over time, she mixed in yard art and chimes, creating charming surprises. Brandt installed drip irrigation and two rain barrel water collection systems to reduce her water use.

The Brandt home with its new drought-tolerant landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District Vista 2021 Contest

The Brandt home with its new drought-tolerant landscaping. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Brandt “gave away the lawnmower” due to the transformation into a low-maintenance, WaterSmart paradise where flowers bloom year-round.

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

Native plant-sustainability-garden-landscapetracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Image: Water Authority

Setting Objectives for Waterwise Landscaping Success

It takes time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape. Once you have these concepts mastered, the most important step of all comes next.  Consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden for landscaping success.

It might be difficult to know where to start. Many people accept an ocean of green but thirsty lawn and never give much thought to landscaping goals. Consider one of these worthy objectives.

Waving goodbye to grass

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

  • Removing a thirsty lawn without using any chemicals, in a way that preserves the healthy soil microbes
  • Planting local California native plants that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees for pollination
  • Creating a child or pet-friendly garden without thorns or sticky grass seed heads
  • Planting fruit trees, edible vines, and shrubs, or vegetable gardens

Using irrigation efficiently

Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

Building healthy living soil that will act like a sponge, even if it rains a lot

Capturing all the rainwater from the roof and re-routing downspouts to fill rain barrels instead of running onto hardscaping

Converting spray irrigation to micro or drip irrigation, with the intention of turning it off after establishing your waterwise landscaping

Making pathways and driveways more permeable

Making your landscaping an art project

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore's landscape makeover won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: Water Authority

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore’s landscape makeover including artistic touches won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Making room for a small patio with room for an outdoor table or seating

Adding pathways, Zen gardens, and interesting materials and patterns

Integrating beautiful objects such as an art piece, interesting container collection, or items like sundials

One goal we can all support: creating a beautiful sustainable landscape that reduces your water use by 70 percent or more. We can all agree on this definition of landscaping success no matter your individual goals.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Vista Irrigation District Logo

Vista Irrigation District Announces WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winners

Vista, Calif. — The Vista Irrigation District board of directors recognized customers for their entries in the district’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The annual contest recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on the criteria of overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection, design, appropriate maintenance, and efficient methods of irrigation.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District-Landscape Makeover Winner-WaterSmartSD-drought

Hard Work Pays Off for Padre Dam Landscape Makeover Winner

Frank Edward’s Santee home is bursting with bright colors and textures. Vibrant yellow, orange, red, green, and purple flowers, and drought-tolerant, native plants spring to life where there was once just dry and patchy grass.

“It was a lot of hard work but it was also a lot of fun,” said Edward. “It was great to see all of my labor come to fruition.”

The transformation from high maintenance lawn to vibrant design is the winner of the 2021 Padre Dam Municipal Water District Landscape Makeover Contest.

Before transformation

Frank Edward'a home before his award-winning landscape. Photo: Padre Dam Landscape Makeover

Frank Edward’s home before his award-winning landscape redesign. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

After transformation

The results of Frank Edward's hard work. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The results of Frank Edward’s hard work. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Edward began his water-efficient landscape journey in 2018 when he attended a three-hour WaterSmart Landscape Workshop at Padre Dam’s customer service Center. He was tired of his high maintenance, drought-bleached lawn and wanted his landscape to add to the overall attractiveness of his home.

During the workshop, he learned about the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series, a four-class series that helped him through the process of preparing his space, designing his landscape, selecting plants, and irrigation planning. Edward used a kidney bean shaped planter as a starting point and designed his landscape around this feature.

“Hard work but a lot of fun” to complete landscape makeover

Frank Edwards had a complete plan after attending the Water Authority's WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series. Photo: Frank Edwards Padre Dam Landscape Makeover

Frank Edwards had a complete plan after attending the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series. Photo: Frank Edwards

Edward had a fully designed layout ready to be implemented by the end of the class series. He set to work removing his old turf and installing his new landscape in the spring of 2019 and did all of the removal, designing, and planting himself. He even constructed a small barn that acts as a shed and a footbridge over his riverbed to add unique and functional design elements. The work took about a year to complete. Water storage features including a small pond and rock river bed, which add depth and shape to the contoured yard.

The new yard has places to sit and enjoy the flowers, pollinators, and bird. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The new yard has places to sit and enjoy the flowers, pollinators, and birds. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Edward installed piping to collect water off his roof, collected in a rain barrel, and diverts it to the landscape’s rock river bed. Additionally, he created a pond that can hold several hundred gallons of water. This collected rainwater helps to irrigate the plants by replenishing the soil’s moisture for a period after it rains. Edward also installed a smart controller that waters the plants based on hydrozones and local weather through a drip irrigation system.

Neighbors compliment Frank Edward on his efforts. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Edward now spends time relaxing and listening to birds in his front yard. He enjoys the peaceful atmosphere and the satisfaction he gets when neighbors and passersby compliment his landscape. He recommends that others looking to plant a water-smart landscape put in the time to research and plan in order to create an environment and design that will work for their lifestyle.

“Hard work and a well-thought-out plan certainly paid positive results,” said Edward. “It was a great success.”

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

Native plants-drought-City of Escondido-Landscape Makeover

Native Plants Garden Wins 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest

As California experiences another drought cycle, homeowners in the San Diego region continue to makeover their landscapes with native plants that need less water. An Escondido couple recently transformed their landscape to save water and won the City of Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest too.

Escondido homeowners Michael and Teresa Everett first learned about the 2021 Escondido Landscape Makeover Contest from Escondido family-owned El Pantio Nursery. It was the motivation they needed to makeover their landscaping with native plants.

“As concerned Californians, we wanted to do our part to lessen our impact on San Diego county’s water resources,” said Teresa Everett. “We decided to switch to a waterwise landscape using all California native plants. Landscaping with native plants can reduce water usage by 60% or more. There is also a reduction in one’s carbon footprint as there is no need for mowing or trimming lawns.”

The Everett home before their landscaping makeover. Photo: Courtesy Michael and Teresa Everett

Landscaping supports local ecosystem

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The new garden provides habitat for native insects, birds, animals, and people too. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts also reduced yard waste and the need for soil additives since California native plants are adapted to the lean clay soil in San Diego County.

While the environmental reasons were compelling, the Everetts also wanted to create a habitat garden that was both beautiful and supported the local ecosystem.

“California is in the top 25 most bio-diverse areas in the world,” the couple pointed out. “Our housing developments have crowded out native plants. Native plants have evolved to provide exactly the right food in exactly the right package to attract and feed the animals that are unique to our California environment.”

The Everetts' landscaping shows it's possible to have a lush yard and still be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The Everetts’ landscaping shows how to create a lush yard and be waterwise. Photo: City of Escondido

The Everetts planted native trees, including Coastal live oak, Western sycamore, Western redbud, and Palo Verde Desert Museum. They added shrubs, including manzanitas, ceanothus, Mexican elderberry, salvias, desert mallow, and wooly bluecurls. California fuchsias, San Diego sunflowers, and Pacific irises add color. Grasses and vines round out the landscape palette.

“Ever since we re-landscaped, we have observed a huge increase in birds, lizards, butterflies, and other pollinators in our yard. Waterwise native gardens are also extremely beautiful,” said the couple.

Irrigation needs reduced using native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

Salvias and poppies provide color in the landscaping plan. Photo: City of Escondido

After the makeover, the Everetts rarely need to irrigate their landscape between late fall and late spring. During drier months, the landscape is irrigated twice monthly. The homeowners also maintain a vegetable and herb garden using rainwater collected in two rain barrels with 260-gallon capacity and by hand when necessary.

“We now spend many hours relaxing and bird watching in our yard,” said the Everetts. “Our outdoor space is now a much more enriching experience that gives us a greater sense of our connection to nature and a sense of place.”

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido native plants

The landscaping plan includes features like this dry riverbed. Photo: City of Escondido

“By re-landscaping our small property, we hope to take one small step in restoring San Diego county’s rich biodiversity. Sharing the successes of our garden with others will hopefully encourage other homeowners to convert their gardens to water and habitat smart landscapes.”

Find tips on how to create a WaterSmart home and garden, including details on rebates: www.watersmartsd.org/

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

El Cajon homeowner-Otay Water District-2021 Landscape Makeover Contest

El Cajon Homeowner Wins Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon homeowner Christine Laframboise’s water-saving landscape design trading turf for a less thirsty approach was named the Otay Water District’s 2021 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner.

The annual contest is held by water agencies throughout San Diego County to award one resident from their respective service area for their water-saving landscape. Otay selected Laframboise for her well-thought-out design, plant selection, maintenance, and methods for efficient irrigation.

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs removing the old lawn. Pboto: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

Christine Laframboise greatly reduced her water use and costs by removing the old lawn. Photo: Otay Water District

El Cajon homeowner saves water

“We are proud to have customers like Christine who are committed to outdoor water-use efficiency and can demonstrate the many attractive features that homeowners can incorporate into their WaterSmart landscapes, especially at a time when California is facing drought conditions,” said Otay Board President Tim Smith. “We encourage customers to take advantage of our free resources and rebates to help with their landscaping needs.”

The new landscaping eplaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping replaced turf with waterwise plants. Photo: Otay Water District

Tearing out thirsty turf

Thirsty lawn once covered Laframboise’s 1,895-square-foot front yard. Its upkeep required large amounts of water. In 2014, she took landscaping classes presented by the San Diego County Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program.

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

The new landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. Photo: Otay Water District

Equipped with a new landscape plan, Laframboise enlisted the help of her husband and son to remove all the grass responsibly. She installed water-wise features such as mulch, stone, and low-water-use plants.

Her landscape now includes a drip-irrigation system, rotating nozzles, and a smart irrigation controller to schedule efficient water use. The El Cajon homeowner decreased her overall water use by an average of 42%. She waters only two or three times a week and especially enjoys the pollinators attracted to her new yard. She can maintain it on her own and no longer needs a lawnmower.

Laframboise’s project qualified for a $2,140 rebate from the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program.

Landscaping project continues to evolve

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District El Cajon homeowner

The new landscaping continues to evolve with new features. Photo: Otay Water District

“My yard evolves as I learn more about different plants and where I live locally. I recently replaced dyed wood chips for shredded redwood bark. It is safer for pets, children, and wildlife,” said Laframboise. “I also plan to add more natives to attract more wildlife and further reduce my water use.”

The Otay Water District Board of Directors recognized Laframboise at its July 7 meeting with a certificate, a gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, an “Award-Winner” yard sign to display, and other promotional items.

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

Water Authority General Manager Issues Statement on Governor Newsom’s Expanded Drought Proclamation

July 8, 2021 – Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, issued the following statement on today’s expanded drought declaration and proclamation of a state emergency by Gov. Gavin Newsom and his call for Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15%:

“While the San Diego region is thankfully drought-safe this summer due to sound planning and decades-long ratepayer investments in new water supplies and storage and adoption of water conservation as a way of life, we must also be part of the statewide movement now underway to address water supply challenges created by drought and climate change in other parts of California.

“The Water Authority strongly supports the governor’s call for the public to voluntarily cutback water use by 15% in order to allow local, regional and state water agencies to plan and take the steps necessary under these changed conditions to maximize the availability of limited water supplies going forward, through the investment of state funding and implementation of other provisions of the Governor’s Proclamation of a State Emergency and Executive Order N-10-21 calling for water conservation.

“The Water Authority will be working closely with our member agencies and with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over the next several days, weeks and months, to design and implement strategies to maximize water supply development in collaboration with Governor Newsom and state agencies, in order to protect California.”

Information about the Water Authority’s water-use-efficiency programs is at www.watersmartsd.org/.