Water Conservation Efforts: An Evaluation of the "Cash for Grass" Turf Replacement Rebate Program in Los Angeles City Council District 3

Water Conservation Efforts: An Evaluation of the "Cash for Grass" Turf Replacement Rebate Program in Los Angeles City Council District 3

Edith Medina, Jacky Guerrero, Diego Ramirez
An Applied Policy Project submitted in partial fulfillment of the core requirements of the Masters of Public Policy Program at the University of California, Los Angeles Luskin School of Public Affairs

As cities in California seek to reduce water consumption due to the worsening drought conditions, local leaders are looking to individual households to do their part in the water conservation effort. Lawns are seen as an area where significant water savings could be achieved; for example, a recent University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study found that outdoor water use represents 54 percent of the total water use for single--‐family households.1 The practice of “xeriscaping”—utilizing landscape in water--‐efficient ways by planting low--‐water plants—offers households a viable way of conserving water.

In the City of Los Angeles, the turf replacement rebate program, also known as the “Cash for Grass” program, encourages households to convert their landscapes by offering a rebate of $3.75 per square foot up to 1,500 square feet, and then $2.00 for every foot thereafter. The rebate program is managed by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), and funded jointly by MWD and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

While there have been many reports analyzing the potential water savings that households could experience by converting their lawns to drought--‐friendly plants, few reports have analyzed the financial aspects of participating in this action. Specifically, this report seeks to analyze the short--‐ and long--‐term financial effects for households participating in this program. We believe that calculating the average amount of money that households could save will strengthen the argument that the City of Los Angeles uses to promote and justify funding the rebate program.

Our analysis uses Council Member Bob Blumenfield’s Council District 3 (CD3) as our focus area due to its high number of single--‐family households, which have a relatively higher percentage of income, larger land percentage, and hotter climate2 when compared to other districts in the city.

Read the full publication here.