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Marty's story: Lawn replacement saves water, stokes creativity

A garden featuring flowers of white, blue, purple and orange is bisected by a brick pathway.

In the spring of 2021, San Anselmo resident Marty B. was at a crossroads. Her backyard lawn and landscaping was aging and, in Marty’s words, “Ugly!” She wanted to replace it, and Marin County, like much of California, was in the midst of a prolonged drought. 

One option was to simply ditch the lawn. Marty knew about Marin Water’s Cash for Grass program, which provides an incentive to customers who remove all or portions of their grass lawns. In place since May 2021, the program provides up to $3 per square foot of lawn removed, with pre-approval required. Since its inception, the program has successfully helped remove more than 480,000 square feet of thirsty grass. 

So, after consulting with Marin Water staff members about the District’s Cash for Grass incentive, Marty said she stopped watering her lawn. 

“That first phone call was so encouraging,” Marty said. “(The Marin Water staff member) really made me feel like I could do it. I’d been wanting to turn that ugly lawn into a garden for years, but didn’t know how to start. (Marin Water) gave me the step-by-step process, and it was easy from there.” 

With the help of her “garden guru,” Marty would eventually spread cardboard on the lawn, followed by compost and mulch. As she waited for the drought to end, she attended webinars and visited friends’ gardens – envisioning her future garden oasis. 

“I wanted lots of pollinators and native milkweed for monarchs,” Marty said, adding that her new backyard landscaping does contain some non-natives as well. 

As the 2024 growing season begins, Marty said she expects to see her water savings grow now that she’s not irrigating a turf lawn. And she is still enjoying adding plantings to her backyard landscaping. Reflecting on her work, Marty said she has probably spent less than $1,000 on the conversion – and got a healthy rebate from Marin Water for replacing her lawn as well. 

But for Marty, perhaps the best part was the process itself. “I hadn’t anticipated how much pleasure I would take from going through the process,” she said. “It’s a great creative outlet, and at the end you have something beautiful. It feels like a California garden now and I love that.”

Want to replace your lawn to craft a vibrant oasis of drought-tolerant plants like Marty? Learn more about the District's Cash for Grass program at

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