Homeowners are replacing water-thirsty green grass with more eco-friendly alternatives, from rocks to native shrubs.  As the drought persists in California, homeowners’ interest in finding ways to conserve water has grown. Some turf busniesses, for example, have already received more than 60,000 customer inquiries.

For each square foot of grass they remove, homeowners save an average of 44 gallons of water a year. That means grass removal is “an important piece” of addressing California’s ongoing water crisis.

Demand for such services has been spurred by California Governor Jerry Brown, who has ordered water suppliers to cut usage 25 percent in the midst of the worst drought in the state’s recorded history. Utilities have helped grease the way by offering homeowners rebates for replacing lawns with water-saving plants and features, in a process called xeriscaping.

Watering lawns accounts for more than half of typical home water use in California, according to a state fact sheet. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is responsible for about one-third of residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Las Vegas has been offering incentives for people to replace thirsty grass with drought alternatives for years.

The massive Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offered a rebate of $2 per square foot to every customer that wants to replace a lawn. The program was so popular that funds were exhausted by May, but the agency expects to restart the program with a new authorization on May 26. Some local water authorities under the district’s umbrella have also added incentives. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers a total of $3.75 per square foot for the first 1,500 square feet, and $2 per square foot after that.

Customers can apply for a rebate directly and install their own water-efficient landscaping. Or they can hire a company like 5 Star Turf Commercial in which they sign over their rebate rights to the company, which then applies for the credit. The customers pay nothing for the conversion of their lawn while we recoup its costs and make a profit, entirely through the rebates that accrue.