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Rancho Santa Fe Residents Received 5 Highest Payouts For Removing Lawns

Photo caption:

Photo by Angela Carone

It only took a few water bills last summer to change the attitudes of Scripps Ranch homeowners Meg Kaufman and Norm Bornstein. They pulled out their lawn and replaced it with water conservation landscaping.

Residents of Rancho Santa Fe, who along with those in Solana Beach have come under fire for using large amounts of water, received the five highest payouts for removing lawns in response to the continuing drought, it was reported Thursday.

The top five Metropolitan Water District turf removal grants rewarding homeowners who replaced up to an acre of turf at a time with drought-tolerant plants or synthetic materials ranged from $48,000 to $70,000, according to data obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune. The amounts topped rebates given to homeowners in other affluent areas, including Malibu and Beverly Hills.

In April, Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach customers supplied by the Santa Fe Irrigation District used 426.6 gallons of water per capita, per day, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. By comparison, customers of urban and suburban cities and water districts used between 100 and 150 gallons per capita, per day.

The oft-criticized customers in the Santa Fe Irrigation District removed about 373,000 square feet of turf under the rebate program, according to the newspaper's data. The district's usage rates fell 42 percent in May and 37 percent in June over 2013 rates.

The Metropolitan Water District's turf removal program initially had no limits on amounts that could be paid, and its $340 million budget was exhausted in just one year, The San Diego-Union Tribune reported. The Metropolitan Water District has since imposed a $6,000 cap.

A message on the water district's website said that although it was on track to remove more than 170 million square feet of turf, turf removal incentives were no longer being offered because funding had run out. Residents on standby in case more rebate money became available were placed on a waitlist, and will be notified if selected via email in November.

Funding for a similar grass replacement program in the City of San Diego has also been exhausted, according to the city's website.

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