Las Vegas residents Don and Linda Fontana have a yard filled with rock gardens, firecracker flowers, and daisies. But it didn't always look this way. They're among more than 26,000 homeowners who have benefited from the region's Water Smart Landscape program, which offers cold hard cash to people who replace lawns with hardscaping and plants needing less water.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), which serves more than two million residents in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, launched the program in 1999, as the area's growing population and active tourism trade upped the demand on the Colorado River and the local aquifer. “Our best option is to conserve as much water as possible,” says J.C. Davis, a representative for SNWA. Since that time, the group has given homeowners $38.8 million to replace nearly 36.5 million square feet of grass, saving 2 billion gallons of water each year. Residents are now paid $1.50 per square foot of lawn replaced.
Other cities have developed cash-back programs modeled on Water Smart, including Austin, Texas, and Glendale, Arizona (see the full list below). But even if you don't get a refund for giving up your lawn, drought-tolerant landscaping still has benefits. The Fontanas have slashed their water bills by 50 percent, and they love their new yard, which the rebate helped pay for. “The only time I used our lawn was when I mowed it,” says Don. “Now we have more than 125 different plants in all these beautiful colors. It's gorgeous.”
Cities that offer incentives to people who replace lawns with hardscaping:
San Francisco Bay area, CA
San Antonio, TX