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Multi-Benefit Incentive Program Implementation in San Diego County

African Tulip in front of house


  • North America



Facing possible water shortages due to the increasing prevalence of droughts, intensifying water quality compliance mandates, and record-breaking wildfire seasons, California water managers are recognizing that working together helps individual agency resources go further and creates impact faster. Seeing the need for effective and cross-cutting solutions, the County of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority have entered a 5-year “multi-benefit stacked incentives” program partnership to offer increased rebates for actions that improve water supply and keep waterways clean.   

This partnership, one of the first of its kind in the region, is part of the County of San Diego’s Waterscape Rebate Program (WRP), which offers incentives for residential, commercial, and agricultural customers for implementing projects that upgrade properties, save money, and improve water quality. Property owners can receive higher-than-ever rebates for installing sustainable landscaping, rain-saving containers and features, and smart irrigation controllers, among other actions. The program also features innovative technical assistance programs for commercial landscapes, and a cost-share program for agricultural efficiency upgrades. By “stacking” incentives from different budgets, multiple water resource agencies can make their individual funds go further, improve program participation, and increase the funding pool for program delivery and scaling.   

The County of San Diego engaged Environmental Incentives to research and design the program and implement the pilot phase. As of September 2023, the program had completed more than 400 verified projects. These projects have collectively treated more than 275,000 square feet of impervious area and removed more than 750,000 square feet of grass.  

EI continues to develop and scale program infrastructure and support new and existing partnerships between the two agencies. Our team currently supports the County and its partners to:   

  • Implement projects to understand viability of each incentive program and adapt policies to maximize cost-effectiveness.  
  • Define metrics and benefit estimation methods and tools to track and report water quality and supply benefits.   
  • Develop monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems to adaptively manage program performance.   

This effort builds on Environmental Incentives’ work developing incentive programs using market-centric design to rapidly prototype and launch viable approaches and then expand successful elements to produce multiple benefits for water quality and supply.   

For more information, visit the Waterscape Rebate Program Page. 

This video highlights a turf replacement project completed at the Rancho San Diego HOA in the Sweetwater watershed. The new sustainable landscape covers 37,000 sqft and is estimated to save 2.2 million gallons of water each year. 

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