Across the country, homeowners struggle with the conflicting desires for a beautiful lawn and water conservation, but as water availability becomes less guaranteed, communities are using creative incentives to encourage a different mindset. In Gainesville, Florida (Alachua County), a program was launched to decrease the amount of outdoor water use by removing irrigation systems and replacing the grass with landscaping that is indigenous to the area and more sustainable.
The Alachua County Turf SWAP Rebate Program is made possible by a grant from the St. John’s River Water Management District which, according to its website, is “an environmental regulatory agency of the state of Florida whose work is focused on ensuring a long-term supply of drinking water, and to protect and restore the health of water bodies in the district’s 18 counties in northeast and east-central Florida.” Stacie Greco, the Water Conservation Coordinator for the County Environmental Protection Department stated, “The goal of the [Turf SWAP] program is to help people convert to systems that will help protect our drinking water and our springs.”
St. John’s River WMD works with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program to educate the public to be “Waterwise,” by “matching the right plants with existing site conditions so that the use of additional resources — such as water, fertilizer, pesticides and labor — is minimized.”
Homeowners are eligible for up to $2,000 in rebates to be used to reconfigure, cap off or remove existing irrigation systems. They are also encouraged to remove existing turf and incorporate mulch into their landscapes and use plants that will thrive in the conditions of the area. The grant from St. John’s is in the amount of $300,000 and the county has to use all the funds by January 2019. Savings in water resulting from work already done with the program are estimated at more than 6 million gallons annually.
 “Learn More about the St. Johns River Water Management District.” SJRWMD, www.sjrwmd.com/about/.
 Tinker, Cleveland, and Cleveland Tinker. “Alachua County Homeowners Save Water, Money – Losing the Grass.” Gainesville Sun, Gainesville Sun, 5 Apr. 2018, www.gainesville.com/news/20180405/alachua-county-homeowners-save-water-money—losing-grass.
 “Waterwise Landscaping Helps Save Water Resources – SJRWMD.” SJRWMD, www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation/waterwise-landscaping/.
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