BY: Warren Tenney

Glendale: 100th Acre Converted From Grass to Desert Landscape

Published May 14, 2018

In 1986, the City of Glendale established a plan to help lower the amount of water its residents used. The city didn’t mandate conservation or simply cheerlead residents to take action. It offered incentives.  Glendale set up a voluntary program that gave residents rebates on their water bills if they invested in efforts to reduce the amount of water they used, such as installing low-flow toilets and automated irrigation controllers. 

The city also offered rebates to homeowners who replaced grass with desert-adapted landscape. It was the first program of its kind in Arizona and this month Glendale celebrated the program’s 100th acre of grass replaced by drought-resistant landscaping. The milestone means more than 5,200 residents have taken advantage of the rebate program and are helping the city save more than 100 million gallons of water every year.

Glendale kicked off the program by replacing grass with desert landscaping around its own municipal buildings and parks. In the 1980s, landscapes with desert-adapted plants were just beginning to be showcased in local magazines, the state began using desert plants and trees to landscape freeways, and AMWUA had published its first pamphlet called More Green for the Gallon. The pamphlet evolved into a 30-page booklet called Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert and the popular searchable database on AMWUA’s website. Many other Arizona’s desert cities quickly followed Glendale’s lead and established rebates for what became known in the business as “turf conversions.” 

Due to the success of the residential landscape rebate program, in 2005 the City of Glendale Council approved a landscape rebate for non-residential properties, such as HOAs, businesses and apartment buildings. 

Not only do participants receive a rebate but they also save money on their water bills. Desert landscapes – also known as xeriscapes - use half the amount of water as grass. Here’s a summary of Glendale’s current Water Conservation Landscape Rebate programs .

Existing Homes: Homeowners can receive a $150 to $750 rebate for removing grass and replacing it with a desert landscaping. Glendale’s requirements for replacement landscaping are flexible and allow residents who take advantage of the rebate program to keep mature trees and shrubs of any kind, as long as at least 500-square-feet of grass is removed.  Artificial grass is not considered a desert landscape because it can heat up to 150 degrees in summer sun, eventually needs to be replaced, and results from federal studies about its lead content are still pending. 

New Homes: New homeowners can receive a $200 rebate if they install desert landscaping as more than 50 percent of their total landscape in their front and backyards. The landscape square footage does not include pools or driveways and landscaped areas must exceed 1,000 square feet.

Non-residential Properties: Non-residential property owners and managers are eligible for a rebate if they replace a minimum of 1,000-square-feet of grass and complete the Water Budgeting process. Water Budgeting is a free city service that provides HOAs, apartment buildings and businesses with an experienced landscape and irrigation expert who works closely with boards, managers and landscape contractors. Among other services, the Water Budget process can provide a month-by-month water budget for a property and calculated cost benefit studies of landscape and irrigation changes. Non-residential sites receive $1,500 for participating in the Water Budget process plus $150 for every 1,000-square-foot of grass removed and replaced - up to $3,000 a year.

It may be worth your while to find out what rebates your city offers . Some rebates also help defray the cost of irrigation controllers and water-efficient appliances and fixtures. Rebates save you money and save water for all of us.

Photo: City of Glendale. Long-time Glendale resident Robert Wild took advantage of the city’s Water Conservation Landscape rebate and marked the 100th residential acre of grass replaced by the program.

For 49 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit .