New Studies Show Metropolitan Grass Removal Incentives Are Transforming Southern California Landscapes

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LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As Southern California faces the toughest drought in its history, two new studies underscore the value and large-scale success of the Metropolitan Water District’s turf replacement program, which provides rebates in species to residents who trade their water-hungry lawns for more water-efficient California Friendly® and native plants.

A study found that for every 100 homes that converted their yards using a rebate, 132 other nearby homes were inspired to convert their own lawns without receiving rebates to help fund the projects. This “multiplier effect” more than doubled the value of Metropolitan’s investment in making Southern California more sustainable.

The second study found that less than 4% of participants who received a lawn rebate to transform their land subsequently replanted grass.

“Metropolitan has been working for decades to transform Southern California’s landscapes into plants that are more suited to the climate. These studies show that these efforts are working and that precious water is being saved,” said Metropolis Chief Executive Adel Hagekhalil. “As climate change tests all of our water supplies, we must ask ourselves: is maintaining decorative lawns that no one ever walks on, what we call non-functional turf, really the best use of this precious resource?”

Metropolitan’s Turf Replacement Program offers residents and businesses $2 per square foot of converted lawn in front or back yards (many local water agencies also offer additional incentives). The sheds have helped facilitate the removal of more than 200 million square feet of grass, saving enough water to serve 62,000 Southland homes each year.

The latter two studies were conducted by Dr. Andrew Marx, CEO of PlanetScape AI, with the aim of helping Metropolitan better understand the overall water savings of its turf replacement program.

The Multiplier Effect study used aerial imagery to examine nearly 800 homes in 20 Southern California neighborhoods between 2012 and 2018 to determine how many converted their grass to drought-resistant landscaping. without reimbursement and their proximity to homes that have received a reimbursement.

“Our rebates not only save water in homes that have replaced their lawns, but these participants show their neighbors how beautiful this type of conversion can be. And we’re seeing real results,” said Metropolitan Council President Gloria D. Gray.

The reversion study analyzed more than 2,000 yards that received a discount from 2014 to 2018 to determine how many people replanted their grass after previously converting their yards to drought-tolerant landscaping. He found that a small percentage returned, most of which only resulted in residents relocating grass to part of their yard.

So far in 2022, Metropolitan has seen a month-by-month increase in turf rebate requests, from 223 requests in January to 364 in April and 870 in May.

“Studies quantify what we see walking around neighborhoods. One person becomes converted to a beautiful California landscape, their neighbor sees it, is inspired, and does the same,” said Bill McDonnell, Metropolitan Water Efficiency Manager. “Summer is the perfect time to ask for a shed, let your lawn die back in the hot summer months and wait until the fall when it’s cooler to plant natives.”

For more information on Metropolitan’s rebates and tips for removing and replacing your lawn, visit bewaterwise.com.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, together with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provides water to 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and northern California to supplement local supplies and helps its members develop increased conservation, recycling, storage and resource management programs.


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