Interview with Jeffrey Kightlinger of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Southern California is blooming. 

Orange poppies, yellow goldfields, purple lupines – wildflowers of every color are covering landscapes from the desert to your neighbor’s yard. 

They are a reminder of how beautiful California native plants are. And they offer a glimpse of what can be – in yards, medians and public spaces across Southern California – under a new rebate being offered by the Metropolitan Water District in the name of water conservation. 

Residents and businesses who replace their water-thirsty grass with more sustainable native and California Friendly® plants can receive a rebate of $2 per square foot of grass removed. 

The benefits are many. Participants get a potential superbloom right outside their front door, regular visits from butterflies and hummingbirds and a rebate of up to $10,000, depending on the size of their lawn. 

And the region gets much-needed water savings. 

About 60 percent of water use in Southern California is used outdoors to irrigate landscaping; that share is even higher in hotter valley and inland communities. Reducing outdoor watering is essential to ensuring the region has a reliable water supply for decades to come. 

Indoors, Southern Californians have done a great job conserving water since the 1990s.

We’ve installed high-efficiency toilets and low-flow showerheads. We’ve bought water efficient washing machines and dishwashers. 

We’ve made it possible to save water without even thinking about it. We’ve even incorporated behavioral changes into our lives, like turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth and shaving. 

Collectively, it has made a huge difference. Thanks in part to these efforts, Metropolitan Water District and its member agencies deliver less water today to serve nearly 19 million people than in 1990 when the region had 14 million people.

Put another way, since 1990, conservation and investments in recycled water have led to a more than 35 percent reduction in per capita potable water use – from about 205 gallons per day in 1990 to 130 gallons per day now.

That has brought us a long way. But we’re far from done. Our population continues to grow. And our climate is changing, stressing water resources across the west. So to ensure the region has reliable water for generations to come, we all need to reduce our daily water use even further. 

The biggest opportunities for savings are outdoors. 

Southern California’s landscape is already evolving. A turf replacement program sponsored by Metropolitan during California’s recent drought that also offered a $2/acre foot rebate spurred the removal of more than 160 million square feet of grass. 

Where green grass was once the standard in every yard, beauty and value are now found in more sustainable water-efficient landscaping. 

But for those who actively use their lawns or who aren’t ready to make the switch to sustainable landscaping, there are other opportunities for outdoor water savings. You’ve already seen some great tips here, like watering only in the morning or evening, installing a drip irrigation system and cutting your grass taller to reduce evaporation during irrigation.   

Metropolitan also offers rebates for other water-saving devices, including rotating sprinkler nozzles, weather-based irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors, rain barrels and cisterns. 

All of Metropolitan’s rebates and additional water-saving tips are available at

Jeffrey Kightlinger is general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a state-established cooperative that together with its 26 cities and retail suppliers provides water for nearly 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.