Rebates offered to South Bay residents who uproot lawns

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The new slogan "brown is the new green" is catching on in the South Bay. Residents are being encouraged to embrace lawns that are now brown from lack of water. ABC7 News takes a look at the rebates available and an alternative way to have a green lawn without wasting water.

A picture perfect green lawn may not be what it seems. Just two hours prior, ABC7 News saw the same lawn had brown patches from reduced watering. These types of efforts are underway to make brown lawns a badge of honor.

"'Brown is the new green' is the slogan. We want people to... if their lawn is turning a little bit brown because they're reduced their water use, go ahead and put this sign in there and announce to your neighbors that you're doing the right thing," Valley Water District spokesman Marty Grimes said.

Valley Water District says the typical lawn uses 18,000 gallons of water a year. But there's another way to conserve water. You can re-landscape. That's what Karen Koppett did. Her $5,000 project qualified for a $2,000 rebate because she planted drought-tolerant plants. The water district doubled the rebate in April to $2 per square foot.

Koppett said, "I was really motivated to change it out, not just to save water but also to save my time, and I didn't have to go out and mow. I didn't have to have a lawn mower that was two-stroke engine putting out air pollution, so a lot of motivating factors that made me do it."

Last year, 128 water customers took advantage of the landscape rebate program. This year, 382 have already completed their project or it is in progress. Over $1.1 million in rebates have been paid.

The $2 rebate program expires at the end of September, although it could be renewed.

If brown isn't appealing, there's a lower cost alternative -- spraying the lawn with an advanced kind of food coloring. Green Canary says the application will last from 90 to 120 days. It doesn't smell. It isn't harmful to pets or people and it costs about one-tenth the cost of artificial turf.

"This will give you a little bit of time to decide, 'Do I want to spend that money?' Maybe we get into a rainy season and we overcome the current shortfall," Shawn Sahbari from Green Canary said.

Sahbari says the instant green lawn also appeals to home sellers seeking curb appeal. However, it also allows the homeowner to cut back watering to two minutes once a week just to keep the grass alive.

If you see what you think might be a case of water wasting, send us a picture and we'll check it out. Share your photos and video by emailing us at
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