Rebate programs

Michael Raffety


Everyone in the El Dorado Irrigation District saved water during the 2013-14 drought. – 24 percent.

Now the governor has called for 25 percent conservation. Doable? Yes,


The State Water Resources Control Board came up with some weirdo schedule claiming EID should save 35 percent on water consumption based on September 2014 consumption, even though the governor called for conserving 25 percent compared to 2013 usage.

In spite of any potential water shortages or conservation requirement, the district will face the anomaly of more water supplies in Folsom Lake than there is demand by El Dorado Hills customers now and in the future.

That is the result of obtaining a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to use half of the district’s 17,000 acre-feet of completely adjudicated water rights from Hydroelectric Project 184.

The question for the EID board is this: Should we let the excess supply be sold by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation or should it be sold by EID for the benefit of its customers?

Were EID to sell that excess supply it owns in Folsom Lake -– which can’t be taken out anywhere else upstream — that would be a high-income stream of money — $700 an acre-foot — that could serve the district three ways.

1. It would ameliorate rate increases and make up for the lack of power sales.

2. It would help finance water delivery system improvements.

3. It would fund a lawn rebate program that would generate long-term water savings and meet the state requirement to save 20 percent in the year 2020.

Thirty-six water districts have lawn rebate programs, with the most notable one being the massive Metropolitan Water District that serves Southern California. MWD’s general manager issued a press release in early March that said the district had water “in reserve.”

That confidence came from having doubled its lawn rebate in 2014 from $1 per square foot to $2 per square foot.

That $2 per square foot for lawn removal shifted residential lawn conversions to “water wise” landscaping from 99,000 square feet in January 2014 to 2.5 million square feet removed in July 2014. Businesses removed 22,00 square feet of turf in January 2014 and upped that figure to 4.7 million square feet in July 2014 – the equivalent of 82 football fields.

Gov. Brown wants to “replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments.”

Among the agencies already doing rebates is the Placer County Water Agency, which will rebate up to $1,000 for lawn removal, $150 for an old clothes washer, $175 to replace a toilet and $500 for irrigation efficiency improvement.

MWD also will contribute $75 toward a rain barrel and $80 toward a soil moisture sensor or $35 per station.

EID has nearly 36,000 single-family residential customers. Changing lawns to xeriscape or water wise landscaping in accordance with an annual district rebate budget will begin to whittle down the summer water consumption by the district’s largest rate class.

When the automobile allowed Americans to move from the central city to the suburbs with their large lots, they began to imitate English country estates by having large lawns in front and back. Lacking the sheep that the English country gentleman used to keep his vast lawn clipped, Americans created a new industry around lawn care.

Here in California we lack sheep to crop the lawns in Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills and we lack the summer rainfall that waters the lawns in England and the American East and Midwest.

It’s time to begin replacing these English lawns in El Dorado County with landscaping more suitable to our Mediterranean climate.




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