City Hoping Residents Keep Off the Grass


Story as it appeared in the Saturday, June 18th issue of the Register Pajaronian by Todd Guild.

More than five years of drought has baked California, and residents are watching as lakes and reservoirs dry up, trees die off and groundwater supplies run dangerously low.

And so, in an effort to stop residents and business owners from dumping thousands of gallons of fresh water to irrigate their lawns, communities throughout the state and across the U.S. are offering incentives to ditch their grass.

A group of workers from the City of Watsonville and California Conservation Corps were in Ramsay Park Wednesday and Thursday, where they tore up the lawn and replaced it with several drought tolerant plants.

They also modified the sprinkler system to deliver water underground, a way to stop evaporation. The “turf conversion” at the popular park’s Main Street entrance is a way to show the community that losing a lawn and replacing it with plants suited to arid conditions can be a good move.

City officials chose the 3,000-square foot section because park visitors do not frequently use it. “We’re doing it to save water, decrease runoff and eliminate the turf that isn’t used for any practical purpose,” said Watsonville Parks Superintendent Ben Heistein.

Michael Johnson, who owns California Horticulture Services and is a consultant for Watsonville’s Landscape Water Conservation Program, called the work at Ramsay Park “a long time coming.” “We can have a healthy, beautiful landscape that needs little to no water one it’s established,” he said.

To date, approximately 100 residents and business owners have made the switch, Johnson said. “We’re trying to convince folks to do the same thing,” he said. The City of Watsonville Public Works and Utilities Department is offering a rebate of .75 cents to $1 per square foot to residents who convert to drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial turf. The maximum rebate is $500 for residential customers and $1,000 for multi-family, commercial and institutional customers.

Most local water agencies offer incentive programs to encourage homeowners to install drought-tolerant landscaping, and the state offers turf replacement rebates of up to $2,000.

For more information, visit City of Watsonville lawn replacement rebate,,, or


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