How can I check the status of my Sustainable Landscapes Program (SLP) incentive?
Existing program participants can log into their account at SLP Login. For help from a customer service representative, call (866)648-2925 or e-mail SDCWA@waterwise-consulting.com. Please allow up to two business days for a response.
Who is eligible to receive a rebate?
Incentives are available for residential customers, including single-family residents and properties with up to four dwelling units serviced by a single water meter. HOAs, commercial, industrial and institutional properties do not qualify. Properties must be in the San Diego County Water Authority’s service area. Residents who have participated in previous turf replacement incentive or rebate programs may be eligible for a Sustainable Landscapes Program incentive for a different part of their landscape (for a total of no more than 3,000 square feet combined). Additional requirements are listed below.
What are the minimum requirements to qualify for Sustainable Landscapes Program incentives?
  1. The project area must currently be covered by existing (live, brown or dead) turf grass; the turf grass area must have verifiable and recognizable established turf at the time of application and the pre-conversion site inspection. Do not remove turf grass until a pre-conversion site inspection has been completed and you have received official written approval to start your project.
  2. The Program requires rainwater capture and detention, soil enhancements, climate-appropriate plants, water-efficient irrigation methods and site inspections.
  3. The property must be in the San Diego County Water Authority’s service area. To see an agency map or determine if your address qualifies, go to www.sdcwa.org/member-agencies.
  4. The project area must have an operational, in-ground irrigation system that irrigates turf grass with potable water.
  5. The project area must be between 500 and 3,000 square feet. It may include front, side and back yards. Areas landscaped with shrubs, ground covers, flowerbeds or vegetable gardens are not eligible. Neither are sidewalk or parkway strips.
  6. The participant’s water utility account must be in good standing.
  7. Each participant must complete one or more Program Education/Training Classes or score 80 percent or higher on an Online Quiz designed to ensure adequate knowledge of critical landscaping terms. Numerous resources are at Resources .
Additional Program requirements are listed at Terms and Conditions and SLP Incentive Requirements.
Can I apply for an incentive if I already started my turf-removal project or if I already completed my project?
Thank you for your efforts to conserve water. However, the Program is not retroactive and does not provide incentives for projects that were started before receiving a written notice of approval. The Program is intended to incentivize the conversion of existing lawns. Pre-approval and pre-conversion site inspections are required. Even if you can provide photographs of your previous turf areas and the project process, your incentive request will be denied if you started before receiving formal approval.
I live in a homeowners association (HOA) and do not have an individual water utility account. Can I still qualify for the Program?
This Program is intended for single-family residences, townhomes and properties of up to four dwelling units connected to a single meter – not sub-metered properties typical in HOAs. Please check the Program website periodically to see if new incentives become available for HOAs, multi-family, commercial, industrial and institutional properties.
What documentation do I need to submit?
Before starting the project, you must pre-qualify by submitting the following:
  1. Part 1 of the online Reserve Incentive Form
  2. A copy of your most recent water utility bill
  3. Three photos of each area where there is turf to be replaced as part of the project
  4. A First-Flush Volume Worksheet (rainwater capture worksheet)
  5. A Detention Area Worksheet (within 45 days following your pre-conversion site inspection)
  6. A Plant Coverage Worksheet (within 45 days following your pre-conversion site inspection)
  7. A Property Owner Project Authorization Form (if applicant is the water service account holder but not the owner of the property)

Once your initial application and back-up documents have been reviewed and approved, the Program administrator will contact you to schedule a pre-conversion site inspection.

After your project is complete, you must submit the following:

  1. Part 2 of the online Payment Request Form
  2. A minimum of five color photographs per converted area, such as front yard, side yard(s), and backyard. (Additional photos may be required.)
  3. Paid itemized sales receipts and invoices for project costs (Project design fees of up to $500 are eligible for reimbursement. Labor costs for installation are not eligible for reimbursement.)
Note: You will be notified by phone if your project is being selected for a post-conversion site inspection.
Can I convert turf in one area at this time, and receive another incentive for turf removal in another area at another time?
No. Projects cannot be done in phases.
Is there anything else that I should do to make the process as easy as possible?
Create and submit a landscape design plan or sketch of the proposed project area. It’s also a great idea to create and submit an irrigation plan (if applicable). In addition, it’s helpful to complete the Detention Area Worksheet as quickly as possible to ensure adequate rainwater capture surface areas.
How long do I have to complete the project?
After receiving written approval to start work, you will have 120 days to complete your project and submit Part 2 of the Sustainable Landscapes Program Application to Request Incentive.
What plants can be used for this Program?
There are numerous beautiful climate-appropriate plants that can be used in your new landscape. The Program requires that the plants are recognized as very low-to-moderate water-use plants. You can locate the watering requirements for most common plants at Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. Make sure the plants you select are not listed as invasive by the California Invasive Plant Council. For more information, refer to Sustainable Landscapes Program Resources.
Besides plants, what other materials can be used in the project area?
You may choose organic mulch, rocks, permeable hardscape such as permeable pavers, gravel, flagstone with sand grouting, or decomposed granite. Non-organic materials may not exceed 25 percent of the total project area. For additional information, refer to the Program Terms and Conditions and SLP Incentive Requirements.
If I replace plants other than turf, will these qualify for the incentive?
No. The purpose of this incentive is to remove high water-use turf grass and help capture rainwater runoff.
Can I use traditional or artificial turf as part of my new landscape?
No. The project area may not contain any turf, turf-looking grass, or artificial/synthetic turf.
How much plant material needs to be planted?
The new landscape must have a minimum of 50 percent plant coverage at maturity. Tree canopy coverage is capped at 50 square feet per tree, including pre-existing tree canopies, with a maximum of two trees. No more than 40 percent of the planted area may be covered with moderate-water-use plants. To calculate plant coverage, complete a Plant Coverage Worksheet before you start planting (Note: This is a Program requirement.) Also remember to group plants with similar watering needs together (hydrozoning).
What materials do not qualify for an incentive?
Materials not eligible include, but are not limited to, the following: artificial turf, seed, sod, vegetable gardens, vineyards, high-water-use plants, decorative ornaments, impervious surfaces, hot tubs, pools, building extensions, fencing, lighting, tools, sheds, trellises, playground materials, decorative water features (fountains), and graywater systems. Permeable hardscapes cannot exceed 25 percent of the project area (i.e., decomposed granite, stepping stones, etc.). Other Program requirements apply. Refer to the Program Terms and Conditions and SLP Incentive Requirements.
Note: Cement, decking, curbing and non-organic mulches may be permissible, subject to review by the Program administrator.
Is mulch required between plants?
Yes. Your new landscape must include compost and organic mulch at least 3 inches deep. Mulch helps prevent runoff and holds moisture in the soil. Recycled organic debris is the most effective type of mulch because it builds soil structure over time and provides a durable, protective barrier. Artificial and inorganic mulches (including decomposed granite, gravel and other rubble) are primarily decorative, since they do not contribute to soil life or plant health. They may be used in limited applications such as pathways covering no more than 25 percent of the project area. Remember to keep the mulch a few inches away from the plant stems or tree trunks.
Why am I required to add compost to the soil?
The addition of compost to the soil will improve the soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties, producing healthier soil, plants, trees and shrubs. Healthy soils holds water rather than letting it run off-site. For more information about compost, refer to the Sustainable Landscapes Program Landscape Materials.
How do I calculate the compost and mulch needed for my project?
Refer to the Sustainable Landscapes Program Landscape Materials and click on the Compost Calculator.
Do I have to replace my irrigation system?
Not all projects require an irrigation system. You may choose to cap your system and hand-water where necessary. If you chose to have an irrigation system in the project area, it must be water-efficient, as described in the SLP Incentive Requirements. This means that you must use drip, micro-spray, or low-application spray nozzles. A pressure regulator and filtration device is required for all micro/drip-irrigation systems. If you are using low-application sprayers, make sure they operate at appropriate pressure and do not overspray onto adjacent buildings and hardscapes. Additional rebates may be available at www.socalwatersmart.com for low- application spray nozzles and Smart Irrigation Controllers.
Do I qualify for an incentive if I hand-water my lawn?
To be eligible for the incentive, the project site must have an existing, operational, in-ground irrigation system. Properties that do not have an in-ground irrigation system and are hand-watered do not qualify for this program at this time. Irrigation systems are much more likely to use more water than watering by hand. The benefit of hand-watering is that you can easily avoid over-watering and preventing run-off.
How do I effectively kill my turf grass?
There are different methods to kill your turf grass depending on the grass type. To help retain and protect microbes in the soil when removing turf grass, use non-toxic methods such as “soil lasagna” (a.k.a. sheet mulching). With warm season grasses (St. Augustine, Bermuda, etc.), you may need to remove the grass with the help of a sod cutter. For more information, refer to the Sustainable Landscapes Program Resources and Sustainable Landscapes Program Guidelines (pages 16-19).
Why am I required to incorporate a rainwater detention feature in the project area?
Incorporating rainwater detention feature(s) will help conserve water and reduce run-off that pollutes bays and oceans. Run-off from hard surfaces (roofs, patios, walkways, etc.) should be re-directed to the landscape. The first rainfall (known as the “first flush”) is the most important water to capture in the landscape, since this water carries pollutants that have collected on hard surfaces and should be to be filtered by the landscape before it enters waterbodies. Refer to the Resources and Sustainable Landscapes Program Guidelines (pages 38-51). Below is an example how much rainwater can be collected from a 1,000 square foot hard surface area.
Rainfall (in inches) x Roof Square Feet (SF) x 0.62 = Gallons of Rain Water from your Roof
If your roof is 1,000 SF, here is how much water runs off it:
  • 1” (rainfall) x 1,000 square feet x 0.62 = 620 gallons
  • 10” (typical total San Diego coastal rain rainfall) x 1,000 square feet x 0.62 = 6,200 gallons
Can I use rain barrels or cisterns in my project?
Project areas that are 1,000 square feet or less may use rain barrels or cisterns to meet the rainwater detention requirement. Areas larger than 1,000 square feet can combine rain barrels with in-ground detention areas (such as swales). In either case, projects must capture rainwater runoff from hard surfaces (i.e. roofs or walkways) of at least 400 square feet.
How do I measure my roof/hardscape areas?
The shape of your roof does not matter. A pitched roof and a flat roof have the same footprint and the same amount of rainfall on the total roof area. Just measure the outside edges and calculate the square footage as you would any landscape area. You may also consider using a free, on-line Google Maps area calculator at DaftLogic.com to help calculate your roof surface area.
When will I receive the incentive?
Approved payments will typically be made within approximately 10 weeks after the Water Authority has been notified the project was completed by the participant submitting: Part 2 of the online Sustainable Landscapes Program Application to Request Incentive; required project photos; and project-related receipts and invoices.
Will my incentive be taxable?
If your incentive amount is $600 or more you will be issued a 1099-MISC form. With the 1099-MISC form, you are required to submit your social security or taxpayer ID number. Please consult with a tax advisor if you have questions regarding rebate tax implications.
Can you recommend a landscape contractor?
We cannot recommend particular contractors. To find certified professionals, refer to page 115 of the Water Authority’s e-Guide to a WaterSmart Lifestyle.