County Pilot Program Makes Strides on Water Quality and Sustainability


In August 2021, the County of San Diego launched a pilot rebate program to empower residents to improve water quality and reduce water use on their properties.

This pilot, the Waterscape Rebate Program, offers incentive payments and friendly technical support to help San Diegans living in the unincorporated county change the way they manage their water and landscapes. Reducing potable water used for landscaping conserves a precious resource, protects the San Diego region against drought, and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.

Rain BarrelRain barrel

The Waterscape Rebate Program

There are many different rebate opportunities available, and they are offered to residences and businesses in the unincorporated county. Rain gardens, gutters, rain barrels and cisterns, weather-based irrigation controllers, and septic tank pumping rebates are all available and serve primarily individual homeowners and small businesses who are looking to undertake rainwater harvesting projects and small-scale turf replacements. For commercial properties, the Landscape Optimization Service provides additional support for large turf replacement projects at community centers, homeowner associations, and businesses. The San Diego County Water Authority partnered with the program to advance its mission of sustainable water supply. Environmental Incentives is the implementing partner, coordinating with participants, developing practices, and providing quantified results. All our partners are motivated by our mission of improving water quality and reducing unnecessary water use. This is done by converting grass to low-water use landscaping and harvesting rainwater by connecting roofs to rain barrels and rain gardens.

Education is also an important part of the program. The County has developed specialized training materials that are paired with the rebate programs and enhance the public’s knowledge of watershed issues. A recent outreach success has been the ongoing Rainwater Harvesting Workshop series where participants learn about the appropriate manner to install and maintain rain barrels on residential properties, and at the end of the workshop receive a free rain barrel.  

The Impact

The Waterscape Rebate Program has produced quantifiable sustainability benefits for the County. Since August 2021, the Waterscape Rebate Program has engaged almost 1,000 residents, verified the completion of over 220 projects, and paid over $280,000 to participants. The program has helped convert over 235,000 square feet (SQFT) of turf to sustainable landscaping and treat over 250,000 SQFT of impermeable surfaces with water-saving best management practices. The best available science estimates that these projects are saving 1,270,000 gallons of water annually. They also reduce wet weather runoff volume and dry weather runoff which reduces pollutant loads to County waterbodies and contributes to a healthier and more sustainable environment.

The Future

The Waterscape Rebate Program is growing and adapting to best serve the residents of San Diego County. In the near future, the County plans to increase investments in the program so it can provide greater water savings and water quality protection. If you are interested in participating or to learn more, please check out the program website.