In response to drastic mandatory cuts on water use, several agencies throughout Southern California are offering rebates to customers who remove their lawns and replace them with turf. While these incentives are no doubt enticing, the well is bound to run dry at some point. On funding, that is.
While very much appreciated, we’ve already seen evidence of the financial instability of these programs.
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which offers $2 and $1 per square foot of lawn removed from residential and commercial properties, respectively, recently declared its rebate funds had been fully committed. Fortunately, MWD voted this week to approve an additional $350 million to continue the program. Though the parameters have now been restricted slightly by placing a cap on the allowable rebate amount – $6,000 for residential and $25,000 for commercial – it’s still good news for homeowners. But how many more rounds of funding can the agency approve? The initial $100 million dedicated to the program was dispersed in about 6 month’s time. With mounting pressure for conservation, including Governor Brown’s 25% reduction mandate announced last month, MWD’s newly approved funding will likely disappear even more quickly this time around.
Locally, Calleguas Water District, which serves much of Ventura County, once added $1 per square foot to the MWD rebate but ran out of funding. The Calleguas website states the agency is taking three months to “streamline” the process, and refers customers directly to MWD.
Incentives are great, but unfortunately it’s not possible for these agencies to fund rebate programs for the duration of the drought. That’s why I encourage the homeowners I interact with to reduce consumption simply because it’s the right thing to do. Sounds “pie in the sky”, I know. And as a real estate professional, I know firsthand the leveling of pride that is required to let a lawn fade to brown, particularly for high-income clients who, realistically, can afford to pay fines for maintaining a lush, sprawling landscape.
However, there is a greater good to keep in mind, here. We are all in this together as Californians. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful place with a climate that is easy to take for granted – as easy as it is to take for granted that water will always pour from a tap when it’s turned on. But like any given region in the country, we have our own unique set of challenges inspired by Mother Nature. There should be no greater incentive than overcoming the threat of an unstoppable force in order to protect a place as uniquely beautiful as California.
It is my hope that we keep our priorities above the vanity of maintaining stellar curb-appeal and the simple comfort of a 20-minute shower, and truly sacrifice for this amazing place we are so fortunate to call home.