LOS ANGELES (AP) — Turf removal rebates rewarding Los Angeles property owners for tearing out their lawns saved less water per dollar than other conservation measures and served primarily as publicity tool for a city seeking to look drought-conscious, according to a city controller’s audit released Friday.
The grass replacement programs yielded far less savings for the money spent than other programs, and the biggest water savings came not from incentives, but residents’ cutbacks, City Controller Ron Galperin found.
While acknowledging that the program “in some ways worked as intended,” Galperin said the program called Cash in Your Lawn was “largely a gimmick — a device intended to attract attention and publicity.”
He said the program’s inefficiency was the problem, and that it yielded the lowest return on investment than any of the other conservation programs, by a wide margin.
“If money is no object, turf replacement rebates are a relatively expedient way to save substantial amounts of water,” Galperin said in the report. “But, of course, money is an object.”
The city’s Department of Water and Power spent nearly $18 million on turf rebates in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and that each dollar is expected to save 350 gallons of water over a decade, the audit said.
In contrast, the audit says nearly $16 million spent on other measures such as high-efficiency appliances will produce a per-dollar savings of at least 1,700 gallons of water.
DWP said in response that many of the most efficient water-saving techniques, including appliance rebate programs, have been in broad use since the 1990s and had little room to expand in the recent drought.
The turf replacement program and similar measures are meant to take on outdoor water usage where there was more opportunity, and more need, for cutbacks, DWP Board President Mel Levine and General Manager Marcie Edwards said in a statement.