As a drought continues to plague the region, Southern California’s water supplier has for the first time restricted millions to watering their yards just one day a week.

The unprecedented action by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is due to a water shortage emergency and means that certain cities and water agencies in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties will have to enforce a cutback on June 1.

“Now, we need to prioritize between watering our lawns, or having water for our children and grandchildren, and livelihood and health… with this historic drought getting worse, we cannot afford green lawns,” MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a Wednesday briefing.

With water supplies limited, Southern Californians may be thinking about making changes to their lawns.

There are tax rebates available to those who make the change to a more sustainable yard, so people can get paid to transform their turf.

Here are some changes homeowners can make to have drought-friendly yards and save water:

Tear out the lawn

Tearing out your water-guzzling grass will help both drive down your bill and save water.

The average lawn can use up to 125 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet on hot, sunny summer day.

Replace your non-native plants with native species

Plants native to California are naturally drought tolerant, and help provide a habitat for birds, butterflies and pollinating insects.

A California native garden is also meant to be easier and less expensive to maintain than traditional landscapes. The water district says drought tolerant plants use up to 85% less water per year than a traditional lawn.

And since the state has more than 6,000 types of native plants, gardeners have a wide variety to choose from to make their yards pretty.

A poppy rock garden is seen in a photo shared the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
A poppy rock garden is seen in a photo shared the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The California native plants can include Dudleya succulents, desert grape, bee’s Bliss sage, coffee berry shrubs, narrow leaf milkweed and desert mallow.

Here’s a list of native plants by county:

There’s also an online tool that lets you know which native plants are perfect for your garden after you enter your zip code and choose a design.

All the plants are available to buy at these local nurseries.

Be more efficient while watering

The Metropolitan Water District says 60% of many household’s annual water use is outside the home.

The following are tips for saving water in the yard from, Metropolitan Water District’s portal for water-saving:

  • Surround your plant with mulch to reduce water evaporation by protecting the soil from sunlight
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway
  • Check your sprinkler system for leaks, overspray and broken sprinkler heads
  • Collect and reuse rainwater for your lawn or garden with a rain barrel or cistern
  • Water plants in the early morning or evening to reduce evaporation
  • Install a smart sprinkler controller that adjusts watering based on weather, soil type and amount of shade

Get paid to replace your turf

The Southern California water district says it has invested nearly $800 million in conservation rebates to incentivize people to buy more more water-efficient devices like low-flow toilets and smart irrigation controllers.

There’s also a Turf Replacement Program that offers tax rebates for Southern Californians who transform their lawns with California friendly plants, stormwater retention features, permeable hardscapes and water efficient irrigation systems.

People can get $2 or more per square foot for up to 5,000 square feet of lawn converted in their front or back yards.

Additional rebates may also be available on devices like weather based irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rotating nozzles, rain barrels or cisterns.

You can check estimate my rebate for incentives offered in your area. Eligibility requirements can be found here.

Residents have to apply for a rebate reservation before beginning their landscape project and removing their grass.

After their project plans are approved, residents will have 180 days to transform their lawns and submit their rebate request.

LADWP also has a water conservation program. Applicants are eligible to receive a rebate for turf replacement of $3 per square foot for 5,000 square feet.

That’s for people who switch to California friendly plants, put in mulch and other groundcover to help retain moisture in the soil, install a rain capturing feature and drip irrigation.