landscape photo by Jerry LevineBy Riamy Beuscher, communications intern

California water agencies are working to determine whether the nation’s biggest lawn removal experiment was worth the cost. During the last two years of drought, more than $350 million has been paid to property owners to remove lawns. In July 2015 alone, Southern California residents applied for rebates to remove more than 1,500 lawns.

In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to conserve water and set a goal to eliminate 50 million square feet of lawn. Removing lawns may sound like a small step, however the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates one-third of all water American households use goes toward watering lawns and gardens.

Now, some water-district managers are concerned that the lawn removal program benefits do not measure up to the rebate costs. Two key questions are: how long households will remain lawn free and whether or not rebates change Californians’ landscaping preferences.

In Southern California’s Irvine Ranch Water District, survey results found that in addition to other factors, the program built awareness about water conservation.

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