Manteca helps pay to replace grass with water-efficient landscaping options

Approximately 197,479 square feet of grass – nearly five acres – have been converted into more water-efficient, lower-maintenance landscaping through the City of Manteca’s Lawn Replacement Incentive Program.

It started in the middle of the last drought with 150,772 square feet of grass that was replaced in the first two years it was offered – 2015 and 2016 – when stricter water protection measures went into effect. 272 homeowners and commercial properties have participated in the program.

With Manteca and the rest of San Joaquin County and the Sacramento Valley now in exceptional drought – the worst possible category – and 85 percent of California in extreme drought, city officials hope more people will take advantage of the program.

The city’s lawn-to-garden rebate program is designed to remove high-water-consuming lawns and replace them with water-efficient landscaping that is suitable for the semi-arid climate of the northern San Joaquin Valley. It pays an incentive of $ 1 per square foot up to 650 feet for residential buildings and 5,000 square feet for commercial to offset conversion costs.

Watering lawns is by far the No. 1 one-time water use in Manteca. It is also believed to be the most inefficient and wasteful of water as it doesn’t water between noon and 6 p.m. when evaporation is highest and grass is less likely to absorb water from the heat.

Some of the litter is also attributed to people who water grass during the winter cold, when types of lawns like Bermuda grass become dormant and turn yellow, on the assumption that the grass needs water to stay alive. Another contributing factor to wastage is automatic sprinkler systems that will not override residents if there has been enough rain that day or several days before to meet the grass’s water needs.

Information and applications for the lawn replacement program can be found on the city’s website ( Go to Public Works, click Water Department, and scroll down to Water Conservation.

A municipal requirement setting a mandatory upper limit for lawns in the front yard of newly built homes – a mandate unrelated to the lawn replacement program for existing homes and businesses – was put into effect in mid-2015 to reduce the number of home buyers opting for no grass the front gardens decide.

A windshield survey of 30 newer homes built in southeast Manteca last year showed that nearly 3 in 5 buyers avoid all grass in front gardens.

The municipal contract stipulates that no more than 25 percent of the required landscape area for front gardens may be overgrown with grass. The same applies to side courtyards on corner properties.

The 25 percent cap on grass in front yard landscaping doesn’t mean it has to be planted in every lawn. The ordinance only states that the 35 percent area of ​​the front garden that is to be greened must consist of living plant material.

Manteca’s rules stop at Las Vegas. This city prohibits the planting of lawns in the front yard of new houses. Las Vegas also limits grass in the side and back yards to either 50 percent of the area or 100 square feet – whichever is larger – with a maximum size of 5,000 square feet. In non-residential areas, grass is only allowed with a special permit. The only exceptions to this restriction are parks, schools, and cemeteries.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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