Juan Jimenez and his wife Angelica in their front yard on the 300 block of Keystone Ave. in Burbank on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. Jimenez planted drought-tolerant plants and added concrete in his front yard to save money on water use.

Juan Jimenez and his wife Angelica in their front yard on the 300 block of Keystone Ave. in Burbank on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. Jimenez planted drought-tolerant plants and added concrete in his front yard to save money on water use. (Raul Roa/Staff photographer / November 2, 2012)

Burbank residents can pocket between $250 and $1,000 if they replace the grass on their front lawns with drought-tolerant and non-invasive plants as part of a Burbank Water and Power program approved this week that could save an estimated 750,000 gallons of water this fiscal year alone.

“It’s pretty exciting for us,” said Kapil Kulkarni, the utility’s marketing associate.

An eco-friendly front lawn, he added, could save single-family homes up to $15 on their monthly water bills.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the project 4-1, with Councilman David Gordon being the dissenting vote. While he encouraged water-conservation education, Gordon was against the program’s financial incentives.

More than half of residential water used is for landscaping, Kulkarni said, which is one way the program will help the utility reach its goal of conserving 60 million gallons of water this fiscal year.

To be eligible for the one-time, $1-per-square-foot rebate, each project must cover at least 250 square feet and comply with a list of rules. Residents who have already converted, or are in the process of converting, their lawns aren’t eligible.

When Burbank resident Juan Jimenez replaced the turf and sprinklers on his front yard with drought-tolerant plants about three years ago, he said he realized a $40 savings on his water bill each month.

In the heat, he waters his plants every other day. But when it rains, his hose stays off.

“I have plants that are flowering all the time, I have butterflies, hummingbirds,” he said. “I enjoy it.”

Demand for turf-removal programs and landscaping workshops is high, Kulkarni said, adding that he receives several inquiries per week from residents. He expects to draw 30 to 40 applicants this fiscal year, with the average rebate being $500.

The utility has about $16,500 to disburse on turf-removal rebates — enough funding for 15 to 65 projects, depending on their size. A large chunk of the cash comes from two grants from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, with Burbank Water and Power contributing about $2,500.

Starting next month and running through spring, the utility will host five landscaping workshops to teach residents how to transform their gardens. The workshops will cost the utility an additional $2,500 from its water conservation budget, Kulkarni said.

While the program is the first of its kind for Burbank, neighboring water providers in Pasadena and Los Angeles already offer turf-removal programs.

Applications for the program likely will be available through Burbank Water and Power in the next few weeks, Kulkarni said.

For more information, call (818) 238-3730.

--

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.