Residents seeking help to convert lawns to desert landscape will get more help than anticipated

Grass is the largest irrigated crop in America, and it’s estimated up to 75% of some homes’ water use is spent on its upkeep. In a state facing another drought, removing lawns should help ease the water woes.

Palm Springs residents will get help converting their lawns to drought-resistant landscaping, and it will be more assistance than anticipated.

Driving the news: The Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously during its regular meeting Oct. 27 to match rebates offered by Desert Water Agency (DWA) that will see homeowners and HOAs qualify for a combined $6 per square foot to rid their residences of grass. DWA will assist in managing the matching funds.

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  • Anticipating enormous demand for the funds and acknowledging they would likely be adding more in the future, councilmembers went above and beyond the $150,000 recommended by city staff and allocated $250,000 for the program through the end of June 2023.

At issue: While voicing unanimous support for turf conversions, the elected officials did not fully agree on a pair of topics associated with the move.

  • They did not move forward with a staff recommendation to ban allowing matching funds for those using artificial turf in their conversions.

  • They also did not allow a request by Councilmember Dennis Woods that the city mandate homeowners use only certain materials proven to be of most benefit to the desert.

What they’re saying: Mayor Lisa Middleton urged debate over the harm done by artificial turf – which Councilmember Christy Holstege pointed out contains not only plastics but “forever chemicals” – and the mandatory plant pallet be part of future legislation.

  • “The overwhelming majority of our residents are going to see this as a great opportunity without having to stand over them with a stick saying you must do this type of landscaping or that type of landscaping.” – Mayor Middleton

Looking back: The city has offered similar programs in the past. For example, a “lawn buyback program” between 2011 and 2016 resulted in the city allocating $140,000 for 110 unique landscape projects. That program, however, was an upfront payment and not a rebate program, which is the current method preferred by DWA.

  • Palm Springs will now become the fourth Coachella Valley city to offer matching grants.

Why it matters: Grass is the largest irrigated crop in America, and it’s estimated up to 75% of some homes’ water use is spent on its upkeep. In a state facing another drought, removing lawns should help ease the water woes.

Details: City staff hope the matching funds will be available by Dec. 1. For more information on the DWA program, including how to apply for the funds, turn here.

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