In 2014, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) undertook an unprecedented investment to incentive turf replacement throughout Southern California in response to the state’s serious drought. MWD devoted $350 million to the program, resulting in more than 46,000 rebate payments to remove 165 million square feet of turf. The funding boost served as a tremendous natural experiment to better understand the effects turf replacement programs.
As part of an evaluation of this program, UCLA and the University of Utah examined socio-economic and demographic characteristics of program participation and assessed changes in vegetation and landscapes of front yards resulting from turf replacement. We examined address-level records of 24,921 participants who applied for turf replacement rebates between February 2014 and April 2016 in Los Angeles (LA) County. We analyzed the socioeconomic and spatial determinants of program participation. Further, we used Google Earth Street View to characterize the landscapes and plants resulting from turf replacement based on a set of randomly selected participating properties. We ascertained the types of turf replacements that were installed and developed a classification system for landscape design types.