A recent article published on Bloomberg.com illustrates the dangers of municipalities financially rewarding citizens who replace their lawn grass with an alternative surface, such as gravel. According to the article, the years-long drought in southern California spurred local water districts to offer a combined rebate of $3.75 per square foot for homeowners and businesses to remove grass. A company that sprang up to take advantage of that offering tempted customers by replacing the turf at no cost as long as the customers turned over their rebate to the company. The turf replacement was a choice of either gravel or mulch, with scattered plantings of drought-resistant flowers and shrubs.

The rebate program was hugely popular. In total, the article states, “enough money was distributed in two years to pay for the removal of 170 million square feet of grass, or 3,000 football fields.”

Unfortunately, the “quick fix” work was often done poorly: the soil was not tested or amended, the plantings frequently died, and weeds invaded the graveled/mulched areas. Increased heat and rainfall runoff were problems, and customer complaints were common. And, when the rebate program ended, the company changed its name and its focus to other energy-saving products and services.

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