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Cash for Grass | Lawn Replacement Program

Lawns typically need four times more water than climate appropriate shrubs and perennials, which makes converting lawns to sustainable landscapes one of the best ways to use water more efficiently. Marin Water customers who replace their lawn with a more water-efficient alternative could be eligible for a rebate to offset conversion costs. And once converted, the new landscaping will use less water. That can translate to smaller bi-monthly water bills!


Two-image collage shows, at left, a pop-up sprinkler head spready water over a grass lawn, and, at right, landscaping packed with flowers and plants. A blue, white and green chevron separates the images.


Lawn replacement rebates available for Marin Water customers

Customers may receive a rebate of up to $3 per square foot for replacing grass in their landscapes. Homeowner reimbursements will be capped at 1,000 square feet, and business owners capped at 5,000 square feet. The base rebate of $1.50 per square foot has fewer requirements to provide customers with more flexibility while still achieving water savings. The top tier rebate of $3 per square foot is available to customers who follow best management practices to optimize long-term water savings, including: 

  • Sheet mulching in place versus physical removal of lawn. 
  • Installation of mostly California native low water use plants over at least 50% of the project area based on mature plant size. 
  • Installation of an alternative water source or stormwater capture feature such as a rain garden, rainwater harvesting cistern, or graywater system.  

Turf replacement rebates exempt from State income tax requirements!
As another small benefit of the rebate program, Assembly Bill 2142, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September 2022, ensures that turf replacement rebates issued in 2022 and beyond will be exempt from state income tax requirements. (Federal tax rules do still apply). An IRS W-9 Form will be needed for tax filing.

Pre-approval is required to participate in the Cash for Grass program; the first step is to submit a rebate application. 

Apply for rebate


Get inspired by another customer's lawn transformation!

Sometimes the best inspiration comes from our neighbors. Read about a Marin Water customer who took advantage of the District's Cash for Grass program to transform her backyard into an oasis of for native plants and pollinators. Read story

1. Immediately suspend irrigation to the project area. 

2. Complete and submit an application form before starting your project. 

3. Marin Water staff will contact you to arrange a pre-inspection site visit, including an indoor and outdoor Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) site survey. 

4. During the pre-inspection site visit, work with Marin Water staff to review the project area and understand the program requirements. 

5. Once your project is approved, complete your project within 180-days. Visit the WaterSmart Gardening Resource Center for low water use plant lists, design inspiration, and more. 

6. Email or call (415) 945-1527 to arrange a post-inspection site visit. 

7. Sign the completed application form during the post-inspection site visit. 

8. For rebates of $600 or more submit a completed IRS Form W9

9. Receive your rebate check in the mail.

Marin Water is offering residential and commercial customers with a potable water service a rebate in return for reducing the amount of lawn area in their landscapes. Two rebate tiers are available, a standard rebate of $1.50/SQ FT for qualifying projects, and a best practices rebate of $3.00/SQ FT for projects that follow best practices in sustainable landscaping. Both rebates are subject to a maximum area of 1,000 SQ FT for residential sites and 5,000 SQ FT for commercial sites. Rebates will be issued in the form of a check.

The Program is available to residential and non-residential Marin Water customers with potable water accounts. The program is not for areas irrigated with recycled water or well water.

Eligible customers may participate one time per water account.

It typically takes 1-4 weeks for staff to provide the pre-installation appointment.

The purpose of the program is to achieve a long-term reduction in irrigation water use by removing lawn areas from the landscape since lawn is generally the highest water use plant in any landscape. 

To be eligible, project areas must clearly be planted in grass. Areas of dormant or recently dead turf grass qualify. Bare dirt areas or other areas where evidence of recent grass cannot be verified will not be eligible. Evidence of recent grass includes analysis of recent customer water use records. There is no minimum area of grass required to be replaced.

No. An existing automatic irrigation system is not required in the area to be converted. An existing sprinkler irrigation system in the project area must be removed or have the spray heads capped in place. 

If only part of a lawn area is removed and the irrigation system is left in place for future use when converted to low water use plants, the converted area must be irrigated on a separate valve from the remaining lawn. The sprinkler system for the remaining lawn must be modified to irrigate only the remaining lawn area and may not spray onto the converted area.

The best practices rebate requires that the area be sheet mulched in place which will not provide a suitable planting area for a lawn. The standard rebate allows for lawn removal so that the area can be prepared for a new lawn but requires that any plants used are low water use and any irrigation is drip.

No. Artificial turf is not eligible for a rebate. Marin Water has made this decision for the following reasons: 

  • Artificial turf does not last forever and ultimately has to be disposed of in a landfill. 
  • Artificial turf does not provide habitat for any living species. 
  • Artificial turf contributes to the heat island effect which raises the temperature of urban environments. 
  • Concerns have been raised about the environmental impacts of artificial turf on underlying soil and groundwater.

Learn more about the reasoning behind this decision

No. The program does not allow non-permeable hardscape. However, permeable hardscape, such as gravel, brick or flagstone with permeable, mortar-less materials for grout lines (such as sand and gravel) is allowed. The use of inorganic landscape fabric or plastic sheeting will make the area ineligible for the rebate.

No. The program is not retroactive and cannot provide rebates for projects that were started prior to receiving approval from Marin Water. The Program is intended to provide an incentive to retrofit existing lawns.

For the best practices rebate, existing lawns must be covered with sheet mulching materials – cardboard, compost and organic mulch. Over time, the sheet mulching materials will kill the covered grass, which will decompose and help improve the soil underneath. Using plastic sheeting, inorganic landscape fabric, or any methods other than sheet mulching will make the project area ineligible for the rebate. For the standard rebate, other removal methods such as sod cutting may be used.

Generally speaking, mulch is any material that covers and protects the soil surface and allows air and water through. Organic mulches (derived from plant material) add nutrients over time and enrich overall soil composition. 

The program requires that converted areas have a minimum of three inches (3”) of organic mulch. FireSAFE Marin recommend composted wood chips and strongly discourages the use of shredded redwood or cedar bark (sometimes called "gorilla hair"). 

Inorganic materials, such as gravel, rock, or decomposed granite, are also used as mulch and are allowed. They are not recommended as they contribute to the heat island effect in urban environments, and may not be as effective at killing grass as sheet mulching.

Cardboard is recommended, as it is widely available and has been shown to be effective. Paper can also be used, but will require more layers to be as effective. In all cases, overlap by 6-8 inches to block out light. The use of inorganic landscape fabric sheeting will make the area ineligible for the rebate.

Side-by-side photos show a grass-covered lawn at left, and a mulch-covered lawn at right.
This side-by-side image shows the transformation of a residential backyard from turf grass to sheet mulching. Plantings will come later.

Sheet mulching involves putting approximately 5-inches of material on top of the project area. This is ideally suited to flat or moderately sloped sites. Sites with steeper slopes may need to modify the approach to ensure that all of the material stays in place over time.

Sheet mulching promotes healthy living soil and provides ideal conditions for plants to thrive once it has had some time for the grass to decompose. Most plants can be planted into a sheet mulched area without any issues. 

  • Trees, shrubs, and perennials can be transplanted directly from containers into sheet mulched areas. Most plants can be purchased in 4-inch or 1-gallons containers. Smaller plants are often better because they are cheaper and establish more quickly and end up growing better than plants that have been in containers longer. 4-inch plants can be planted into the compost layer by just pulling aside the mulch. 1-gallon containers and larger will need to be planted by digging a hole through the cardboard and into the soil. 
  • Ground covers purchased in plugs or as rolls of sod are not a good fit for a sheet mulched area. These should be installed on prepared soil. 
  • Always ensure that mulch is kept several inches away from plant stems to avoid potential plant health issues.

Simply turning off the sprinkler system is not enough. The best solution is to cut the pipe either side of the irrigation valve(s) and glue a cap on both sides. If installing drip irrigation a new valve(s) with a filter and pressure regulator can be installed.

The Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) classifies several thousand plants by water use. Marin is in region 1. Plants classified as low or very low are eligible.

The retail nursery where you purchase the plants or your landscape design professional should be able to provide this information.

An alternative water source is a source of water other than the potable supplied by Marin Water. These water sources can be directed into the landscape to reduce the amount of potable water needed for irrigation. Examples include rain gardens, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and graywater systems.

Rain gardens are depressions in the ground designed to allow water to temporarily pool whilst it sinks into the soil. Water from downspouts is directed into the rain garden instead of out to the storm drain.

Diagram of a rain garden shows the garden in a sunken portion of a residential lawn.

A rainwater harvesting cistern is a container for collecting and storing rainwater from roof surfaces so that it can be used to irrigate landscape plants. Just one inch of rain on a 1,000 square-foot roof produces 600 gallons of runoff. For more information visit the Rain Barrel and Cistern Rebate Program at

Rain barrel

A graywater system is used to divert graywater from inside the home into the landscape to irrigate plants. Graywater is water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks, washing machines, and laundry tubs. Graywater does not include wastewater from toilets, urinals, kitchen sinks, dishwashers, photo lab sinks, or water from soiled diapers. For more information visit the County of Marin website and

Diagram shows a laundry-to-landscape water system.