You can get paid to rip out your lawn with xeriscaping in southern Utah
SALT LAKE CITY — Due to the exceptional drought affecting Utah and the West and local limits on residential water use, you have cut back on watering your lawn. Now it’s yellow. What if you got rid of your lawn forever, xeriscaping it instead and putting in native Utah plants — and got paid for doing it?
Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss that possibility. A program for Washington County residents allows them to get paid for replacing their lawn with xeriscaping, meaning ditching grassy lawns for drought-tolerant native Utah plants.
Renstrom said the district is conducting a survey to determine the costs and benefits of paying residents to pull up their lawns and also studying the successes and drawbacks that other similar agencies have found with their lawn-removal programs.
Lose the green, get some green
“But it’s just a matter of time before we start paying people down here in St. George and Washington and Hurricane to rip out their lawn,” Renstrom said.
“What are we talking about financially? I mean, are we talking hundreds of dollars or more?” Dave asked.
“Preliminarily, our boards looking at paying individuals $1 per square foot,” Renstrom said. “It won’t pay for the full amount to have — let’s say a landscaper and come and rip out your lawn. It’s more of an incentive just to encourage those individuals that are thinking about it. Hopefully this will push them over to rip out that lawn and replace it with more water-wise efficient landscaping.”
Choose plants, scrubs and trees from the desert
“What would qualify as water-wise?” Dave asked.
“There are certain trees that can handle the hot weather down here. Also, there’s certain types of shrubs that do very well. And of course, cactuses or Joshua trees would also qualify,” Renstrom said.
“A lot of rock would qualify, too?” Debbie asked. After all, rocks don’t require watering.
“We don’t want to just simply put rock in there because you do have a heat effect of that where the rock will absorb the heat,” Renstrom said. “So it’s not so much just ripping out and just putting rock there. We really want people to replace that with some type of shading materials so we don’t have a hot environment.”
Southern Utah trends: Xeriscaping and smaller lawns
To provide your lawn with 1 inch of water takes a little over half a gallon per square foot (0.623 gallon to be more exact). That means a 100-foot by 100-foot lawn uses 6,230 gallons of water every time you turn on the sprinklers, according to Today’s Homeowner.
“The average lawn square footage in Utah is about 2,300 square feet, Zach. That is a lot of lawn. Are you going to be paying people $2,300 if it’s $1 per square foot?” Debbie asked.
“Down in our neck of the woods, we have actually less lawn than that,” Renstrom said. “We have about half the amount of lawn as compared to somebody up on the Wasatch Front. But yeah, it could go into the thousands of dollars per lot.”
“Is it all or nothing?” Dave asked. “Like you’ve got to rip out your entire yard? Or would it be, hey, if you at least do 500 square feet, then we’ll do a partial payment?”
“That’s part of the study that we’re conducting right now and asking individuals. I would say we’re leaning towards: you have to tear out at least a minimum amount,” Renstrom said.
No grass lawn ever
“If I were to rip out my lawn if I lived in St. George, and then I decided I didn’t like it. And I decided that I wanted to replace it again with grass, would I be allowed to do that?” Debbie asked.
“You’d most likely have to sign a document saying you would never put grass back in your front yard,” Renstrom said. And not only that, it would actually go be recorded the recorder’s office. So if you sold your home, the new homeowners wouldn’t be able to just come in replace it with grass.”
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.