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2020 Turf Replacement Project

Project URL link
Sponsoring Agency Marin Municipal Water District
Subregions ('North Bay',)
Counties Marin
Watershed Tributary
Public or private land? ()
Location (lat/lon) 38.0400, -122.7400
Start Date 10/01/2015
End Date 06/30/2019
Location Description Commercial, institutional, and industrial (CII) turf areas throughout the Marin Municipal Water District service area, located in Marin County.
2020 Turf Replacement Project

This project will replace up to 1 million square feet of non-functional turf grass in MMWD’s commercial, institutional, and industrial (CII) properties with environmentally beneficial landscapes. Project benefits include a reduction of 25.6 million gallons of potable water use each year, drought resiliency, significant reductions in non-point-source pollution, green waste to landfills, and greenhouse gases generated by lawn maintenance equipment. Habitat enhancements include the addition of 1 million square feet of native and climate appropriate urban landscape that conserves water, reduces impacts to wetland areas and greenhouse gases, and recycles green waste on site.   

Drinking Water Supply
Water Quality Improvement
Water Reuse/Recycling
Stormwater Improvements
Groundwater Benefits
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Flood Protection
Water supply reliability will be enhanced by permanently reducing CII landscape irrigation demand by 6%. Water quality and habitat protection and restoration efforts will benefit by eliminating dry-weather runoff from 23 acres of turf caused by irrigation systems that carry pollutants into downstream wetland habitats.

Part 2 - Detail

The north San Francisco bay region is home to endangered and threatened salmonids, amphibians, and plant species directly impacted by the availability of fresh water flows in Marin and Sonoma County watersheds. From a potable water supply perspective, turf grass consumes more water than any other landscape plant species and accounts for a significant peak in water demand during months when rainfall is unable to meet plant demand. In addition to the quantity of fresh water, water quality in wetland habitat areas is impacted by dry weather urban runoff containing biological and chemical contaminants detrimental to sensitive species. Much of this dry weather inflow to habitats occurs as a direct result of landscape irrigation system runoff, especially from irrigated turf areas predominantly using overhead spray and rotor-type sprinkler technology.  Although well managed turf grass used in active recreational areas, for example, can be very functional and have environmental and social benefits, non-functional turf grass areas do not typically provide the same level of benefit.

The total area of non-functional commercial turf in MMWD is 80 acres: This project will replace 29% of that area with climate appropriate landscaping that enhances the urban watershed, and significantly reduces potable water consumption and pollution caused by irrigation runoff.

Project implementation will consist of a rebate program that offers CII customers a $2 per square foot incentive to replace non-functional turf grass with beneficial low water demand landscaping. Eligible items will include native and climate appropriate plants, drip irrigation system equipment, organic soil amendments, and other required materials to install an environmentally sustainable landscape.

MMWD staff will administer all elements of the project including code compliance, technical support, marketing, site inspections, quality control, accounting, and grant administration and reporting.  

MMWD is a partner in the sub-regional Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership along with nine other north bay water agencies (Partnership). The Partnership has established joint water conservation goals in order to comply with SBx7-7 legislation that established mandatory gallons per capita reductions by 2020. The water savings achieved by this project will assist every agency in the Partnership by reducing the total gallons per capita used in this sub-region by 2020. 

MMWD actively participates in numerous collaborative efforts supporting natural resources management, partnering with local and regional entities to accomplish important projects supporting watershed stewardship, endangered species protection and restoration, vegetation management, water conservation and education.

The district is a partner in the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative, and also partners with local and regional entities such as the National Park Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the County of Marin, Marin County Resource Conservation District, and a host of other government and non-profit entities, to support and implement priority natural resource projects and initiatives.

Disadvantaged Community: This project does not provide benefits specifically targeting or in support of a DAC; the project will benefit the entire MMWD service area in Marin County, California and the Bay Area region in general.

Project Scalability

The scope of this project, and the grant request amount, are scalable. Total estimated costs to implement the project at proposed scale, is $2.2 million. This proposal requests $1.4 million and will accomplish $2.2 million in work. By adding or reducing 100,000 square feet of turf area, the proposed grant request and cost share can be scaled upwards to $2.4 million or downwards to $2.1 million.


MMWD collects 75% of its potable water supply from rainfall on the Mt. Tamalpais watershed, and 25% is imported from the Russian River watershed in Sonoma county. Both of these hydrologic regions depend entirely on local rainfall for potable water supplies, have very limited water storage capacity, and are required by law to release significant portions of this water to support ecosystems that are home to multiple species of listed endangered and critically endangered species. This project will conserve 25.6 million gallons of potable water each year, 6% of all potable water now used to irrigate CII landscapes. This project will provide drought resiliency for MMWD by conserving 25.6 million gallons of potable water annually. Commercial customers will receive financial incentives and technical assistance to convert non-functional turf areas into habitat and climate appropriate landscape areas following the principles of low impact design and Bay-Friendly landscaping.  Landscapes created and maintained using these principles typically reduce potable water demand by at least 50% compared to turf grass.    Regional priorities addressed by this project include: Reinforce/enhance water supply capacity , as this project will conserve 25.6 million gallons of potable water annually, effectively adding to MMWD and the region’s potable water supply. Health of the Bay and creeks , as this project will contribute to maintaining watershed vegetation, land cover, and minimize non-point source pollution resulting from urban runoff containing biological and chemical contaminants detrimental to sensitive species.  

California is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions, and actions must be taken to conserve precious water supplies wherever and whenever possible. If this project is not implemented, an opportunity will be lost to save a minimum of 79 AF annually and permanently and replace 23 acres of non-functional urban landscape with beneficial plant species. MMWD has only 2 years of water storage capacity, including 1 year of mandatory drought rationing, with only one supplemental supply pipeline from the Russian River watershed to the north. One third of water supply is released from MMWD reservoirs to support downstream fisheries and wetland habitats.  During the next extended drought event every gallon of water will be critical to assure water availability to people and sensitive habitats. If this proposal is not implemented, a significant opportunity to eliminate non-essential water use and enhance local ecosystems will be lost.

Project monitoring and evaluation will be conducted by MMWD staff utilizing Automatic Meter Reading technology, advanced water use tracking software, and site inspections to verify that sites are following best practices for maintenance and are achieving water savings based on water budgets calculated for each site.    

As noted above, regional priorities addressed by this project include:    

Reinforce/enhance water supply capacity, as this project will conserve 25.6 million gallons of potable water annually, effectively adding to MMWD and the region’s potable water supply.

Health of the Bay and creeks, as this project will contribute to maintaining watershed vegetation, land cover, and minimize non-point source pollution resulting from urban runoff containing biological and chemical contaminants detrimental to sensitive species.

i. Water Supply (conservation, recycled water, groundwater recharge, surface storage, etc.)

This project will permanently reduce potable water demand by more than 25 million gallons per year. Benefits will accrue at a rate of 14.5 gallons per square foot converted to drip irrigation per year.  

ii. Water Quality

Water quality impairments will be mitigated by reducing dry weather inflows of the nutrient laden non-point-source pollution into the MS4 storm drain systems that dump into downstream wetlands. Approximately 5% of water applied to commercial turf grass areas is estimated to runoff into MS4 storm drains as a result of overwatering, equipment breaks, and pipe leaks. This equates to more than 1.5 million gallons of water each year from the project area.  Water quality benefits will accrue at a rate of 1.5 gallons per square foot converted to drip irrigation per year.

iv. Resource Stewardship (watershed management, habitat protection and restoration, recreation, open space, etc.)

Urban watersheds and habitat will benefit from the installation of native and climate adapted plant species that provide cover and food for pollinator and bird species. Downstream wetland habitats will benefit from reduced loads of chemical nutrients and pesticides used for turf grass maintenance. The quantity of chemical reduction will be proportional to the 


Benefit/Cost Ratio


Water Conservation elements related to this project are included in Propositions 50 and 84 IRWM Implementation Grants for the Bay Area region. The Bay Area’s Proposition 84, Round 2 IRWM Implementation Grant includes the “Bay Area Regional Conservation and Education Program”. A rigorous benefit/cost analysis was conducted during the proposal development process, which resulted in establishing a benefit/cost ratio of 1.70 for this project. As the turf replacement work included with this current concept proposal differs from this Regional Program in that this project consists primarily of implementation, which will therefore result in higher expected water savings per dollar spent, it is reasonable to assume the work proposed here would achieve a higher than 2.0 benefit/cost ratio. 



This project presents a high degree of up-front integration as it addresses priorities associated with several Functional Areas, including Water Supply/Water Quality, and Watershed/Habitat. As described above, the project will contribute measurably to water supply reliability, water quality improvement, watershed habitat creation and restoration, as well reductions in greenhouse gases generated by turf maintenance equipment and vehicle miles required to dispose of green waste.


Increases Water Supply Reliability
Advances/ Expands Conjunctive Management of Multiple Water Supply Sources
Increases Water Use and/or Reuse Efficiency
Provides Additional Water Supply
Promotes Water Quality Protection
Reduces Water Demand
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Addresses Sea Level Rise
Addresses other Anticipated Climate Change Impact (e.g. through water management system modifications)
Improves Flood Control (e.g. through wetlands restoration, management, protection)
Promotes Habitat Protection
Establishes Migration Corridors
Re-establishes River-Floodplain Hydrologic Continuity
Re-introduces Anadromous Fish Populations to Upper Watersheds
Enhances and Protects Upper Watershed Forests and Meadow Systems
Other (Please Describe)
Increases Water Use Efficiency or Promotes Energy-Efficient Water Demand Reduction
Improves Water System Energy Efficiency
Advances/Expands Water Recycling
Promotes Urban Runoff Reuse
Promotes Use of Renewable Energy Sources
Contributes to Carbon Sequestration (e.g. through vegetation growth)
Other (Please Describe)
(low) - (high)
Drought Preparedness
Use and Reuse Water More Efficiently
Climate Change Response Actions (Adaptation to Climate Change, Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Reduce Energy Consumption)
Expand Environmental Stewardship
Practice Integrated Flood Management
Protect Surface and Groundwater Quality
Improve Tribal Water and Natural Resources
Ensure Equitable Distribution of Benefits
Reduce Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Reduce Water Demand
Improved Operational Efficiency and Transfers
Increase Water Supply
Improve Water Quality
Improve Flood Management
Practice Resources Stewardship
Other Strategies (Please Describe)
Groundwater Management Plan
Urban Water Management Plan
Water Meter Requirements
Groundwater Monitoring Requirements
AB 1420 Compliance
BMP Compliance
CEQA Compliance
Water supply reliability, water conservation and water use efficiency
Stormwater capture, storage, clean-up, treatment, and management
Removal of invasive non-native species, the creation and enhancement of wetlands, and the acquisition, protection, and restoration of open space and watershed lands
Non-point source pollution reduction, management and monitoring
Groundwater recharge and management projects
Contaminant and salt removal through reclamation, desalting, and other treatment technologies and conveyance of reclaimed water for distribution to users
Water banking, exchange, reclamation and improvement of water quality
Planning and implementation of multipurpose flood management programs
Watershed protection and management
Drinking water treatment and distribution
Ecosystem and fisheries restoration and protection
Reduced Reliance on the Bay-Delta
Projects that directly address a critical water quality or supply issue in a DAC
Urban water suppliers implementing certain BMPs as on page 17 of Guidelines
Be designed to manage stormwater runoff to reduce flood damage (PRC §5096.827)
Be consistent with the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans) (PRC §5096.827)
Not be a part of the State Plan of Flood Control (SPFC) (PRC §5096.827)

Project team

Part 3 - Benefits