For The Answer
Saturday, November 8, 2003
Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System, and Horticulturist
NEW LANDSCAPE REBATE AVAILABLE
Over 1200 SAWS customers have taken advantage of the Water Saver Landscape Rebate Program since 1994. As of July 1, 2003, however, a new program was implemented. The new program changed the Water Saver Landscape Rebate to utilize the information gathered from an evaluation of the old program. The new Water Saver Landscape Rebate Program is changed to assist SAWS customers in meeting the costs of incorporating changes that saved the most water under the old program. If you retrofit your traditional St. Augustine-dominated landscape to the conditions required by the new Water Saver landscape rebate program you should easily be able to save 50 percent of the water you use on your landscape and still have an attractive yard.
The Water Saver Rebate is also available to SAWS customers that buy new homes. Select the low water use provisions for your new home and we will provide from $100 to $350 depending on the size of the landscape. The rebate figures listed above are if your new home or converted landscape has an in-ground sprinkler system and/or no preserved native area. If you opt not to have a sprinkler system or preserve 30 percent of the native plant cover, the rebate is increased to $150 to $525, again based on lot size. Homes that have a sprinkler system can receive the extra rebate funds as a bonus one year from the official rebate day, if they have only used the amount of water required based on landscape and weather data. This bonus reflects the findings in the evaluation that a landscape with a sprinkler system generally used more water than the landscape without a system, even if the landscape was a xeriscape. You can use less water if you design and maintain an irrigation system well, but in a majority of the examples in the SAWS evaluation, it did not happen.
If you want a SAWS rebate for your landscape it must have the following characteristics:
· The entire landscape must meet the requirements.
· Four inches of soil under all lawn grass. If you have less than that, the grass roots do not have enough reservoir from which to draw moisture. There is no capacity for water storage and you must sprinkle excessively.
· At least one shade tree for the smaller (under 8000 sq. ft.) lots and two trees for larger lots are required. A shaded landscape requires less irrigation than a landscape in full sun.
· If you have lawn grass, it must be under 50 percent of the landscape and only Bermuda, zoysia, or buffalo grass is eligible. Landscapes dominated by lawns used more water in the evaluation. St. Augustine grass does not have the capability to go dormant in a drought and, therefore, is not eligible for the rebate. Groundcovers and permeable hardscape (flagstone without mortar, decomposed granite, etc.) do not use much water.
· Five percent of the yard or less can be high water use plants like annual flowers or vegetables.
· If you have an irrigation system it must pass a free irrigation system check by SAWS, include a rain sensor, and be zoned. Leaks must be repaired and adjustments to prevent water waste must be made before the rebate is given.
· Mulch must cover bare soil. Mulch reduces evaporation and maximizes the usefulness of the soil by keeping it cool and alive with microorganisms.
For more information visit the SAWS website, www.saws.org, or call Sandra Rios at 704-7354. On the website click on Conservation and then Water Saver Rebate. You may download an application from the website or pick one up at any of the three SAWS service centers (Las Palmas, 803 Castroville Rd; Lone Oak (115 S W.W. White Rd; Downtown, 1001 E. Market). We will also mail you an application if you call 704-SAVE and leave your name and address. Complete the landscape, mail your completed application, and SAWS will call you for an appointment to inspect the landscape. It is easy and you will have an attractive easy-to-care-for landscape.
The Greater San Antonio Builders Association (GSABA) and SAWS have agreed to support an ordinance that requires that, beginning in January 2006, all new homes will have low water use landscapes. Get ahead of the curve by converting your yard now or select landscape options on your new home that will reduce water use.