Turf is one of the most water intensive landscape options and requires substantial maintenance. Non-functional lawns, ones that are rarely used, waste water and represent an ongoing cost in both time and resources for the homeowner.

In 2017, South Tahoe Public Utility District celebrates 10 years since the launch of the Turf Buy-Back Program, a rebate program for homeowners to remove lawn and replace it with Tahoe-friendly native or adaptive vegetation. Low water-use landscapes provide multiple environmental benefits including reduced run-off, improved water quality, and reduction in the energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions associated with landscape maintenance and water production and treatment.

Since the introduction of the extremely popular turf buy-back program in South Lake Tahoe in 2007, 339 residential and commercial projects have been implemented, $615,485.15 in rebates have been issued, and 409,876 square feet of turf have been removed. Studies across California show average turf-replacement water savings ranges from 13 to 70 or more gallons per square foot, per year. Using a conservative savings of 18.5 gallons per square foot of turf removed, the District’s Turf Buy-Back Program has resulted in an estimated annual water savings of 7.5 million gallons to date. Funding was provided for this program through the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board Integrated Regional Water Management grant program, in addition to investment by the homeowner and the District.