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Desert Water Agency starts Turf Buy Back program

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Desert Water Agency has one million reasons for you to rip out your lawn. The agency will pay you to convert your turf into a more water efficient desertscape.

The new conservation program started taking applications Friday and homeowners are already taking advantage.

"It seemed like a really good idea, got the email, filled out the application and off it went," said Angela Valente Romeo.

Valente Romeo and her husband bought their Palm Springs home six years ago.

"The whole front including the part behind the tress here and all of the backyard with the rare exception, was grass. It constantly had to be watered,  if you weren't watering it it's dying," said Valente Romeo. 

She's already converted most of it to desertscape. Next on the list is a 700 square foot section on the side of the house.

"We've been thinking about it, and then suddenly the program came and it just made sense," said Valente Romeo. 

The Desert Water Agency will pay $2.00 for every square foot of turf you remove up to $3,000.

"The entire Coachella Valley is very turf heavy, we have a lot of grass, so this is a great way to address the water shortage," said Desert Water Agency public information officer Katie Ruark.

Commercial properties and  HOAs also can apply for up to $10,000 per project.

It won't be completely free, property owners do have to pay at least 25 percent of the project and install a smart controller. 

"It's really a five step program," said Ruark.

Before you start digging fill out an application in person or online. Only front yard project that have not yet begun are eligible. 

"Once you are approved we will send someone to your home and do a pre-conversion inspection.  During that inspection we will measure your turf and make sure that you meet our eligibility criteria, then we leave it to you," said Ruark.

Once it's done, DWA will come out again to inspect, then send you a check, plus you will see a difference in your water bill. 

Converting your grass to desert landscape will save on average about 55 gallons per square foot per year. For Valente Romeo's project, that's over 38,000 gallons of water a year.

"Hopefully it will get people to reconsider some of this, it's doesn't have to be ugly, it can be really pretty desertscape," said Valente Romeo .

Desert Water Agency will take applications until the million dollars designated for this program is used up. 

For more information or to sign up click here.

There are other water districts and cities in the Valley who offer a similar program. 

For Coachella Valley Water District customers click here.

For Palm Springs residents click here.

Be sure to check both your water provider and city for buy back programs. Some allow you to get rebates from both. 

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