Posted: Sep 3, 2013 2:05 PM
Updated: Sep 3, 2013 2:06 PM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The water district serving San Antonio says about 2,000 homeowners enrolled over the summer in a pilot program that offered $100 vouchers in exchange of removing at least 200 square feet of lawn in an attempt to conserve water amid the worst drought in decades.
The $100 coupons are good toward the purchase of specific drought-tolerant plants. It is the first time that the utility gives the money upfront after more than a decade of offering rebates for removing turf. The pilot program met the utility's expectations and it is now poised to give a second round of coupons starting Sept. 15.
The San Antonio Express-News reported (http://bit.ly/1cCqD3f ) that Karen Guz, the system's director of conservation, estimated about 4,000 gallons of water can be saved every for every 200 square feet of turf converted to xeriscaping. Guz said they expect even more people will participate this time around because the program is better known and homeowners be able to plant their new gardens in the fall instead of doing so in the summer heat.
Aside from the coupons, the program also gives instructions on how to convert to the new water saving gardens.
Kimberly Williams and her husband, Chad, recently moved into a home on San Antonio's North Side recently and decided to convert their yard to xeriscape because they realized it would be really hard to save their lawn.
"Our grass was dying, and it would require so much water, and with the Edwards Aquifer going down, down, down, that was a big factor," Kimberly Williams said. "Without that, I don't think we could've done it," added Williams, who wound up replacing all but a small patch of her lawn.
The city started a program in 2008 in which offered up to $400 to residents who chose certain types of grass, reduced the size of their lawns and met water consumption goals. In 2011, only 360 residents had taken part of the program.
Thanks in part to programs like the cash-for-turf initiative, cities like El Paso, that has been affected by a years-long drought have successfully reduced their water consumption even in the face of urban sprawling.
El Paso dropped its water use by 1.6 per cent while the population grew 36 percent since 1990.
Austin has offered a $20 to $30 rebate for each 100 square feet of turf removed and up to three free water-efficient toilets per household and rebates for new dishwashers.
"We know there are opportunities to use less water in the peak time periods of summer like right now and not give up on having an attractive landscape," added Guz.
The utility has checked on residents who benefited from program, which ran from June 1 to July 31, and found that most of them have followed the rules. Those who didn't will not qualify for future rebate incentives.
Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com