As drought lingers, city may consider helping convert lawns to save water

Grass is the largest irrigated crop in America, surpassing corn and wheat. It’s estimated that up to 75% of some homes’ water use is spent on lawns.

A collection of Palm Springs neighbors hoping the city will follow the lead of Rancho Mirage may get their wish.
 
At issue: Facing a larger-than-expected demand, Rancho Mirage officials recently approved adding hundreds of thousands more dollars to a program that helps property owners convert their lawns to drought tolerant landscaping.

  •  The program offers Rancho Mirage residents rebates of $3 per square foot, a figure that matches rebates currently provided by the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD). 

  • A coalition of Palm Springs residents saw that news and started organizing on social media, led by Bob Heinbaugh and Paul Hinrichsen in the Upper West Side neighborhood.

What they’re saying: In a letter to the city, Heinbaugh and Hinrichsen wrote that, “We have several homeowners on fixed incomes who simply have anxiety at the thought of the cost for turf conversion” but who still want to do their part to help ease the impacts of drought conditions.

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  •  They asked the city to step up by offering rebates that match those offered by Desert Water Agency (DWA) to its Palm Springs customers and waiving permit fees for converting to desert landscaping.

  • Depending on how elaborate the landscaping is, the conversion cost ranges between $4 and $12 per square foot.

Looking ahead: Asked Monday whether the city might consider such a program, a spokesperson said there has indeed been discussion and that the new director of sustainability, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, is “looking into it.”

Why it matters: Grass is the largest irrigated crop in America, surpassing corn and wheat. It’s estimated that up to 75% of some homes’ water use is spent on lawns. Replacing grass with anything else during a horrific drought seems like a no-brainer.

  • Rancho Mirage officials estimate approximately 1 million square feet of living turf will be converted to more drought-tolerant landscaping through its rebate program.

Bottom line: Were Palm Springs to follow suit and offer rebates, Heinbaugh and Hinrichsen said it would be “an investment in our city and its residents … US.” 

  • In an email to The Post, they pointed out that detractors should remember that government entities have offered sizeable rebates on many things — from solar arrays to tankless water heaters and energy-efficient appliances.

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