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In many states, free money (as a rebate) is available to homeowners and commercial property owners when they replace grass turf with drought tolerant landscaping. Learn more about what a metropolitan water district or local water agency expects during a lawn transformation project.

Homeowner's drought tolerant landscaping in front yard
Numerous plant and stormwater retention options are available for your project

What is a Turf Replacement Program?

Turf replacement is when a residential or commercial property owner removes their existing grass landscaping, and replaces it with heat tolerant plants in order to save water and create a more natural wildlife habitat. Applying for a local turf removal and replacement rebate is a cost-effective and sustainable approach to landscaping your yard. Once you finish your converted yard project, and your local water agency approves it, you get a rebate (i.e., free money)!

Drought tolerant plants in a front yard located on a street corner
Heat tolerant plants com in all shapes, sizes, and colors

7 Steps to Getting your Landscaping Rebate

In most cases, you’ll need to follow these 7 steps to be eligible for a sustainable landscapes rebate. It varies from state-to-state, and city-to-city, but generally to complete a turf replacement project, you must:

Be a residential or commercial property owner with an existing grass landscape

The intent of a turf replacement program is to have single-family homeowners, multi-family property owners, and businesses remove their existing grass and replace it with organic, drought tolerant landscaping.

House with a yard that includes grass and a stone wall
Does your landscaping look like this? Maybe it’s time to consider something more water wise.

Measure the area to be transformed (in square feet)

Before making any changes to your turf, you must measure your current residential or commercial landscape (in square feet). This calculates your estimated rebate amount (plus any additional rebate incentive).

Measuring tape laying in the grass
Measuring your yard is a vital step in calculating your rebate

Get prior approval through the rebate application process

Submit a turf replacement plan that shows a sketch or digital drawing of the area, list of plants, location of stormwater retention feature, photos of your current turf, and a recent water bill.

Water utility bill
Save your water bills or make sure you can access them online

Remove turf from your landscape

This is the step where you start getting your hands dirty! You need to remove the turf (i.e. the grass) to get ready for the new landscape. There are a number of ways to do this, from using a shovel and a sod cutter, to killing the grass by covering it with cardboard.

Using a shovel to dig up sod
Turf can be removed in a number of ways, although chemically killing it isn’t recommended

Transform your landscape area with plants, a stormwater retention feature, permeable hardscape, and more

Now that all the turf grass is gone, you can start planting your drought tolerant vegetation (native plants recommended). Some local water agencies require a certain number of plants per square foot (e.g. in Los Angeles, you must have 3 drought tolerant plants per 100 square feet). You may also need to add a selected stormwater retention feature like a rain barrel, rain garden, or rock garden, as well as hardscaping that allows water to pass through it (i.e., permeable). You cannot use artificial or synthetic turf.

Sage, plant, purple
Sage can be a beautiful addition to a water wise yard

Remove overhead spray sprinklers and replace with a water efficient irrigation system

Your new plants need water, but much less water than before. Take out those old sprinkler heads and replace them with an efficient, low water drip irrigation system. At this point, you’re looking at an area transformed by water wise choices!

Drip irrigation
Drip irrigation is efficient, cost effective, and fun to set up!

Get post project approval for your rebate

Your last task is to submit a report on the sustainable landscape approach selected, including a description of project area, turf removed (e.g. turf grass, artificial turf), new plants, ground cover, organic mulch, permeable hardscapes, weather based irrigation controllers that ensure water savings, etc.

approved, stamp, business

Is replacing my turf landscape really worth all that work?

It’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed when there are several big steps involved. Turf replacement can be a big deal. Agencies offering the turf rebate don’t always do a great job of describing the project process, including how to become eligible for the program, how to fill out the rebate application, what a turf removal plan looks like, what plants to buy, and how to present your transformed area.

Digging up a grassy lawn
It’s hard work, but $2-$3 per square foot adds up to hundreds, even thousands, in cash

It’s worth it if you like a lot of free money

At $2 or $3 per square foot, you’re looking at a rebate that is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. If you budget your turf project wisely, this means that you can potentially break even, or better yet make money on your landscape project. Plus, the water savings you’ll experience after your project is completed means even more money in your wallet.

money, coin, plants, growing
In addition to the rebate, you’ll also find savings in your water bill

Find a turf replacement program for sustainable landscapes in your state

Many counties and cities offer turf replacement programs. These programs vary in several ways:

  • The rebate dollar amount per square foot (typically $2-$4 / square foot)
  • The maximum rebate allowed for single family homeowners (e.g. $3000 max) and commercial property owners (e.g. $20,000 max)
  • The number of calendar months you have to complete your project
  • The quantity and kind of plants you need to include
  • Additional features like those for stormwater retention

We are actively working on a list of all turf replacement programs in the United States, which you can find in our Rebates Database.