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New program offers $15K for big water-wise makeovers

Schools, churches and businesses near American River qualify

Landscape with low-water plants
Big water-wise gardens, such as the Water Efficient Landscape at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, make efficient use of irrigation. Churches, schools and businesses can apply for funding to replace turf and upgrade irrigation systems. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Commercial properties and institutions such as schools or churches often have the biggest lawns. Local water providers want to help get those lawns irrigated more efficiently – or replaced with water-wise alternatives.

With the help of a new rebate program, Sacramento-area schools, churches and businesses can get up to $15,000 for water-wise landscape upgrades. To qualify, the commercial, industrial and institutional properties must be located within 5 miles of the Lower American River.

“Our goal is to make it easy for business and institutional customers to reduce their water use while also improving water quality,” said Amy Talbot, Water Efficiency Program Manager for the Regional Water Authority (RWA), which is administering the program.

Most of our water use in the greater Sacramento region goes toward lawn and landscape irrigation. This rebate program isn’t just about water use; it’s about runoff, too.

About a third of landscape water use is lost due to overwatering and evaporation, Talbot said. “This program is designed to prevent the overwatering and runoff that carries fertilizers and pesticides from landscapes into the storm drain and directly into our rivers, streams and creeks.”

According to the RWA, qualifying properties can receive funding to replace turf with beautiful low-water plants and trees, and to upgrade inefficient irrigation to high-efficiency sprinkler heads, weather-based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation and more. Rebate funding will cover both equipment and professional installation.

The program is available on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. To learn more, including eligibility guidelines, contact Chris Perry at or call 916-967-7653.

The rebate program is funded by a grant from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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