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Express-News Weekly Column
NEW WATERSAVER LANDSCAPE REBATE PROGRAM
If you are converting your yard from St. Augustine to a xeriscape and want to take advantage of the current rebate program, you need to sign up this month. After you get your application in, you have one year to complete the work. The current program pays $.10/sq. ft. if under half your final landscape is turf grass and $.05 sq. ft. if over half is turf grass. The current program also allows St. Augustine grass to be part of the landscape. Unfortunately, the “old Water Saver Rebate” did not work to save water.SAWS staff reviewed the water use of about 1000 Watersaver Landscape Rebate recipients and 50% used more water after they received the rebate than before. Twenty-five percent used the same amount of water, and twenty-five percent used less water.In comparing the reduced water users to the increased water users, they had less turf grass, they were less likely to have an in-ground sprinkler system, they lived in their house for a longer period, and they were more likely to have done their own landscape work. The new Watersaver Landscape Rebate reflects the findings of the evaluation, plus what SAWS learned from the Evapo-transpiration (ET) research over the last five years. If you have 4 inches of soil and shade, it reduces the irrigation needs of your landscape. It is also clear that Bermuda and buffalo grass require less water than St. Augustine to keep them green. Zoysia, buffalo, and Bermuda grass can go dormant without permanent damage in drought.The new Water Saver Program will pay a rebate based on the size of lot:
Note that, if you do not have an in-ground irrigation system and/or you have preserved the native landscape, you get more of a rebate up front. Homeowners that have an irrigation system and/or do not preserve any native landscape will receive the difference in rebates as a bonus if they use the prescribed amount of water on their new xeriscape after one year.
To receive the new Watersaver Landscape Rebate homeowners must have less than 50% lawn grass over their whole yard, must have 4 inches of soil under all turf, have at least one tree if the yard is 8000 sq. ft. or less, and two trees if it is a larger lot. The landscape cannot include any St. Augustine grass for a rebate. If the home has an irrigation system it must have a rainsensor and must be zoned so that lawn grass can be watered separately from the trees and shrubs. For more information on the Watersaver Landscape Rebate contact Karen Guz or Dana Nichols at 704-7354. You may also call me on the Gardening South Texas radio show (KLUP 930 AM) from noon until 2 p.m. on Saturdays or 1 until 3 p.m. on Sundays (308-8867). The applications will be available starting July 1st. For an application call the SAWS Conservation Department at 704-7354 or visit any SAWS Service Center. You can also print our rebate applications at www.saws.org/conservation.
Families buying new homes are especially encouraged to consider the Welcome Home program. The rebate will help pay for the Conservation upgrade offered by most new home builders. The option will save you much grief and water costs in the future. Your builder should offer the option of at least 4 inches of soil under all turf; under 50 percent lawn—zoysia, buffalo, and/or Bermuda instead of St. Augustine; and a zoned irrigation system. The Greater San Antonio Builders Association (GSABA) has committed to SAWS to support an ordinance that requires all new homes to include a low-water-use landscape in 2006. Until then, the rebate will be available. Instead of St. Augustine grass everywhere, your Welcome Home landscape should include more groundcovers, perennials, and shrubs. Along with the new plants, you can expect lower water bills, more flowers, more songbirds, and more butterflies.