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Drought brings more cash for grass, rebates

Sacramento-area water providers entice customers to save

Upgrade sprinklers, get a rebate, too.

This could be a good time to downsize the lawn. Thanks to your water provider, you may get more cash for your grass.

The reason? We’re in a drought – again. But this may be no ordinary dry spell.

According to the Regional Water Authority, the Sacramento region is experiencing its most severe drought in more than 20 years – the worst of this century.

What was different about this year? A warm dry spring and super-fast meltdown of the Sierra snow pack. Early winter’s near-normal snow pack was basically gone by May – two months earlier than normal. Instead of flowing into rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the snow melt evaporated or soaked into the ground.

That’s why, in part, Folsom Lake’s water levels are 68 feet lower than 2020.

Local water providers including the City of Sacramento are hoping to entice residents to use less water this summer with new or larger rebates. By rewarding water saving, water providers hope to reach their goal of reducing use by at least 10%.

For example, Sacramento’s new rebates, which went into effect July 1, double the amount available for River Friendly Landscape conversions. Customers can receive up to $3 per square foot of turfgrass removed. That adds up quickly; a 10- by 10-foot block of gone lawn equals $300.

The bigger the landscape, the bigger the rebate – and the more potential water savings. Single-family residents can receive up to $6,000 for taking out their lawn and replacing it with water-wise landscaping. Commercial and multi-family customers can get up to $100,000.

Customers don’t have to take out their lawn to cash in on irrigation improvements. Upgrade to a drip system or rotating nozzles – both much more efficient ways to water a landscape – and get up to $800 in rebates.

Perhaps the best deal for the most customers: Get a free Smart Controller for your sprinkler system. City of Sacramento offers up to $400 towards this handy device, which takes the guesswork out of traditional sprinkler control boxes. Get an instant rebate on a Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Control, about a $230 value, when purchased through the SMUD Energy Store.

In summer, a smart controller can save 100 to 150 gallons a day, says the RWA, the umbrella organization for Sacramento-area water providers.

Although the drought is here, no mandatory conservation measures have been put into effect – yet.

In May, RWA members adopted a resolution calling for 10% voluntary conservation, a very achievable goal – especially in July and August when we use more water than other times of the year.

The average Sacramento-area household uses about 304 gallons a day, says the RWA. Of that, 167 gallons goes toward outdoor use. A 10% savings equals about 30 gallons a day.

“Summer presents the greatest opportunity to make a difference, so now is the time to act,” said Folsom Mayor Mike Kozlowski in a statement Wednesday from the RWA. “We are calling on everyone to do their part and conserve water, especially outdoors. We are confident our community will respond, just as they did during the last drought.”

That was 2014-15 and the greater Sacramento region was a super water saver. With only 5% of the state’s population, the Sacramento area accounted for 12% of the state’s total water savings, says the RWA.

Sacramento has made saving a habit, too, with overall water use down about 10% from pre-drought levels.

“We are proud of the way local residents have continued to use less water since the last drought,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy. “Now, we are asking you to consider how to do more. We know our region will rise to this challenge.”

That continued savings is in part due to installation of water-efficient plumbing fixtures such as water-wise toilets and shower heads. This summer, new rebates are available on those indoor water savers, too.

For more information and links: .

For City of Sacramento rebates and other programs: .

For more water-saving ideas, see .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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