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California Water Agency Receives $38M for Turf Replacement

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will put the funds toward increasing the Urban Community Drought Relief Program’s incentives to businesses and others to replace turf with water-efficient landscaping.

The California Department of Water Resources gave a $38 million check to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Nov. 14 for its Urban Community Drought Relief program, increasing incentives to businesses and others to replace turf with water-efficient landscaping.

"The state's foresight and support will enable us all to become more resilient as we face climate whiplash and a future of hotter and drier droughts," Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a statement. "These are part of a holistic and inclusive water management approach, diverse projects and courageous actions we must take."

The first $30 million will be used toward MWD's turf replacement rebate from $2 to $3 per square foot for businesses, institutions and public agencies. The goal is to convert up to 30 million square feet of non-functional turf into water efficient landscaping. According to the Metropolitan Water District, this program has resulted in the removal of 218 million square feet of grass to save enough water to serve 68,000 households annually.

Another $5 million will go to 5,000 eligible Southern California residents. The residential direct installation program is in partnership with Southern California Gas Co. and offers low-income households no-cost installations of high-efficiency fixtures, including irrigation control and more efficient washing machines.

The last $3 million will go to the Recirculating Firefighting Training Unit Program, providing public fire departments a device that recirculates water during "full-flow" training exercises. According to officials, this saves 12 acre-feet of water per unit per year.

The $38 million is through the Urban Community Drought Relief program, which has awarded more than $217 million to 44 projects aimed at drought resilience and preparations for future dry conditions, officials said.

Officials added that the efforts align with California's climate change legislative efforts. The most recent of which is Assembly Bill 1572 signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month. As such, beginning in 2027, the state will phase out the use of potable water to irrigate grass that is not used for recreation or other purposes on commercial, industrial, municipal and institutional properties.

While it is true that synthetic turf's low maintenance can save water, researchers found that it poses other risks. This year, California has passed legislation to discourage the installation of synthetic grass due to health risks posed by the carcinogenic chemicals present in these lawns, also known as PFAS chemicals.

(c)2023 San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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