Students + Campus

UCLA earns one of city’s largest rebates by ditching grass to save water

Switching the IM Field to artificial turf saved UCLA nearly $700,000 through the DWP’s commercial rebate program

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Intramural field artifical turf
Alison Hewitt/UCLA

With the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offering tempting rebates for lawn replacement, homeowners aren’t the only ones replacing their grass lawns. Through the DWP’s Commercial Turf Removal Program, UCLA recently earned the largest non-golf-course rebate issued by the water utility for taking steps to fight the drought.

In July, UCLA received $697,604 from the DWP for replacing the campus’ 8-acre Intramural Field with artificial turf. The IM Field reopened June 10 after a six-month makeover that is expected to save an estimated 6.4 million gallons of water per year. UCLA received the rebate through DWP’s commercial-property program, which is separate from the residential rebate program for homeowners.

The field is just one of UCLA’s water-wise, grass-replacement projects, and a key part of the university’s response to California’s historic drought. With a combination of artificial lawn and drought-tolerant landscaping from five large projects, UCLA anticipates saving 11.3 million gallons annually.

“Grass is much more water intensive, and while we don’t want to get rid of all of it, we’re systematically moving away from it for ornamental areas,” said Nurit Katz, UCLA’s chief sustainability officer. “It’s part of our response to the drought, and part of our long-term water action plan … Real plants provide an important habitat, but if the area is for people to walk or play on, artificial turf can be a viable option.”

Several UCLA summer camps have used the artificial turf, and the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports awards unrolled its “orange carpet” on the field this week. On July 25, the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games comes to campus, and the new field will host the soccer competition.

UCLA’s 8-acre project is the largest in the city behind golf-course grass replacements. According to the DWP, golf course rebate checks through the water utility’s commercial program have been as large as $1.2 million.

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