BARSTOW High Desert residents who are looking to save money on their water bill will soon be able to apply for rebates through the Cash for Grass program.

The Mojave Water Agency will once again be offering rebates to homeowners who choose to replace their lawns with California native plants and desert-friendly landscaping.

The Mojave Water Agency will begin accepting applications for the program starting Nov. 1. The agency has $580,000 available for High Desert residents.

In addition to the maximum of 50 cents per square foot of grass offered by MWA, the Golden State Water Company will be offering an additional rebate of up to $1.50 per square foot to their customers in Barstow and Apple Valley, so residents can receive up to $2.00 per square foot.

Applications for the GSWC rebate program will be available by the end of the month, according to GSWC spokesman John Dewey. Residential customers can receive a refund for up to 1,500 square feet of grass and commercial customers can receive a refund for up to 3,000 square feet of grass.

The program last ran from February 2008 through Sept. 30, 2010. During that time, more than $1.65 million was given to High Desert applicants, with 38 applicants in Barstow receiving a total of $31,500 in rebates, according to MWA conservation manager Tamara Alaniz.

Cash for Grass had been discontinued at the end of June due to lack of funding.

Once the new fiscal year started in July, officials at MWA decided that the most cost-efficient water conservation program was Cash for Grass and focused on funding that program, according to Alaniz. A portion of MWA's budget each year goes toward MWA's Water Conservation Incentive Program.

Programs that provided rebates for purchasing water-saving toilets and high efficiency washing machines were also discontinued in June and have no set date for reinstatement, according to Beverly Lowry, president of the MWA board of directors.

Lowry said that the main focus of rebate programs would be for Cash for Grass, since 85 percent of residential water use is from yards.

High Desert residents who participated in the program saved about 550 acre feet of water per year, which can provide up to 1,100 families with a year's supply of water, said Alaniz.

According to Alaniz, Barstow residents who previously participated in the program have saved about 10.6 acre feet of water per year, which is enough to provide water for 20 families for a year.

Alaniz said that every square foot of grass removed can save 55 gallons of water per year.
Residents are eligible to receive up to 50 cents per square foot of grass removed with a maximum rebate of $3,000 for residential properties and a limit of $10,000 for commercial properties.

Lowry is hopeful that the rebate program will encourage more people in the High Desert to conserve water.

"I would love to see everyone develop some enthusiasm for conserving water," said Lowry.

Money from Cash for Grass will be available until March or when the available funds are gone.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com