The GOOD 100: Cash for Grass The GOOD 100: Cash for Grass
Infographic Communities

The GOOD 100: Cash for Grass

October 13, 2009

Get Off the Grass

The lush green lawn has long been a symbol of the American suburban ideal. But water resources are stretched thin these days, especially in the West. California, for example, averages just over 17 inches of rainfall each year, and turf lawns require about an inch of water per week. With reservoirs drying up, using water to keep lawns green just doesn't make sense, especially when you consider the competing uses: agriculture, sanitation, and drinking.A decade ago, Las Vegas began experimenting with a program to save water and money by paying residents to replace their lawns with local drought-resistant plants. That idea has started to catch on. Recently, cities in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Arizona have launched similar "cash for grass" programs. Most offer homeowners $1 to $2 for each square foot of grass they remove, requiring that it be replaced  with plant life appropriate to the local environment.To make the transition easy, Lisa Amaral, the water conservation administrator in Roseville, California, teamed up with landscapers and nurseries. "We wanted to have beautiful examples of what water-efficient landscaping could look like." Roseville's pilot program was wildly popular. "We had a waiting list the morning we were launching the program, and the funding was completely expended before eight o'clock that morning," says Amaral, "So we went back to council and requested more funding, which they granted."Since Las Vegas's program was launched, 130 million square feet of grass have been removed, reducing the city's water use by 15 billion gallons between 2002 and 2007, despite booming population growth.
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The GOOD 100: Cash for Grass