The San Diego Union Tribune recently published a striking satellite picture of the snowless Sierra Nevada mountains as evidence that the drought can be seen from space. This time last year, the Sierra’s didn’t look nearly as bad.

As a result of relatively accurate forecasting and good planning by water agencies, San Diego is expected to have enough water through 2014 though 2015 is uncertain. Residents have successfully cut usage by about 27% since 2007 but this isn’t enough. About 85% of our water is imported the main supplier, the Metropolitan Water Authority, currently under pressure to send precious water reserves up north.

Why? Northern California is in particularly bad shape. Reports of farmers selling cattle due to lack of food and planting less crops are flooding the media. It’s even rumored that Northern California vineyards will plant less grapes as a result. What does this mean? Experts suggest that food prices are likely to rise.

Turf Replacement Rebate from the San Diego Water Authority

The process is similar to the turf removal rebate application outlined in previous posts though there is a maximum rebate allowance of $3000 per 2000 square foot of turf replacement.

How to apply?

In addition to photos and a water bill, you’ll need a documented list of plants from:

  • A Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape
  • Water Use Classification of Landscape Species Reference (WUCOLS)
  • 2010 Edition UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars brochure
  • Nifty 50 Plants for WaterSmart Landscapes

If there’s a plant under consideration that is not featured on these lists, it will require separate approval. Residential applicants will also be required to complete a one-hour training course online. Do not start your project until rebate approval has been received.

A native plant reminder –

Most of the plants on the lists above are native plants. Do not feel limited as the benefits to installing plants already acclimated to our soil and weather conditions are extensive. Plus, native plants can be truly stunning in a landscape, reduce maintenance bills, add year-round color to your yard as well as attract butterflies and birds, if that’s a priority.

Mix pavers and plants –

Permeable pavers qualify as long as the turf replacement area is also 50% landscaped with water-wise plants. Permeable pavers are preferred over asphalt or concrete as they allow water to drain through the material itself or through joints. The slow seepage into the ground prevents rainwater run-off into the ocean while allowing the ground to benefit from likely needed moisture. Plus, between the various patterns, colors and styles, they’re incredibly attractive. We can help you estimate how much pavers cost to install and provide a number of paver design ideas.

Other Tips…

It’s possible that a site check may be necessary so be sure to follow the rules throughout the rebate process.

Another water-saving measure to consider after replacing turf is supplementing irrigation with rain barrels. Hook a barrel up to a rain gutter downspout to catch and store rainwater for use in the yard. Rebates exist for these, too, and they’re pretty easy to install. Rain barrels are also instrumental if trying to implement true xeriscaping practices.

At the moment, artificial turf isn’t a part of either rebate program if you live in San Diego. However, homeowners still choose it for practical purposes. It’s easier to create a giant place space for kids on artificial turf versus a more fragile bed of native ground cover. Artificial turf also stands up well to pets and doesn’t required any irrigation (native plants will still require a limited amount of water).

As soon as funding runs out, the rebates will be gone. Our advice is to get going on a turf replacement project as soon as possible in order to avoid disappointment.