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Get paid to get rid of turf and switch to water-saving tech

Posted at 4:27 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 20:15:10-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah  — Wilson and Kari Jimenez are thrilled with how their yard looks.

"We still have a little bit of grass here, but we plan to eliminate the rest of that and continue with the desert landscape," Kari Jimenez said, showing FOX 13 News her new landscaping.

They tore out turf and replaced it with native plants and rocks.

GET REBATES: Water conservation resources for Utah residents

"It’s wonderful to have a nice green lawn, but we're in an area where it's not necessarily native, and it just uses more water that we don’t have," she said.

Wilson Jimenez said he doesn't miss mowing it.

"No, we don’t," he chuckled. "Because it’s more work!"

The St. George couple did not get any rebates or incentives to do it, but spent the past two years slowly replacing their lawn because they wanted to conserve water. The Jimenezes have already recorded some water savings. In one month, Kari said, they had 14,000 less gallons of water used than the previous year.

"We haven't gotten any rebates," Wilson said. "We've done it ourselves to save the water."

Kari said she would have liked to have gotten some money to "help with offsetting material and that type of stuff."

The state of Utah has begun signing people up ahead of its launch of a "turf buyback" program, offering incentives for residents to get rid of grass they don't really use.

"The turf buyback will offer residents the opportunity to apply for a rebate to remove our thirsty grass with water wise landscaping," said Candice Hasenyager, the director of Utah's Division of Water Resources.

The program, authorized by the Utah State Legislature earlier this year, is expected to launch in the spring. However, the Utah Department of Natural Resources is taking sign ups now to notify people when they can start applying for rebates.

You can sign up here for information on the turf buyback program.

The legislature allocated $5 million in incentives across the state. The law does require you to have "living grass." State officials say don't start killing your lawn quite yet, though they encourage you to just do the bare minimum of recommended watering.

"It still has to be somewhat alive. Dormant is still alive," Hasenyager said. "It just can’t be a dirt patch."

Some local water districts have already started offering money for "flip your strip" programs designed to get rid of wasted grass on parking strips. This program would be for front yards, back yards or any other "non-functional" grass.

"Grass is not the enemy. We really want to use grass in places where it makes sense. We want our kids to play on it and our dogs," Hasenyager said. "What we’re looking at is when you only walk on it once a week (to mow it), you really shouldn’t have that grass."

With the dramatic decline of the Great Salt Lake and repeated pleas from state leaders to conserve water in the ongoing mega-drought, people have remarked at the high cost of replacing landscaping with drought-friendly turf. Depending on where you live, there are different rebates that can be offered.

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District created a site that tracks rebates that can be offered. You can register at UtahWaterSavers.com and plug in your address, finding local discounts on things like smart controllers for sprinkler systems, low-flow toilets and discounts on landscaping.

The Jimenezes' neighbors have admired the landscaping project and expressed an interest in doing it themselves. It's something Kari said she encourages.

"They loved how the project has come out. It’s saving water," she said. "They have actually expressed even wanting to get rid of their grass so I think it’s been a positive thing."

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.