Get Paid to Make Your Yard Less Thirsty

Summer Hess

The City of Spokane is launching year two of its SpokaneScape rebate program to incentivize drought-tolerant landscaping. A maximum credit of $500 will be applied to residents’ water bills after applying to the rebate program, executing design plans, and passing a final inspection. Applicants converting 300 square feet or more of lawn may apply for the rebate of $0.50 per square foot. 

“We can do 100 full ($500) rebates, and we are expecting to hit that this year. We came fairly close last year,” says Hillary Nickerson, Water Steward Specialist with the City of Spokane. Not all approved projects will cash in on the full rebate, so more than 100 people will be able to take advantage of the rebate. Nickerson encourages those interested to apply, noting, “If we do have a waitlist, we will likely get some fall applications rolling.” 

Nickerson explains the program is an economic benefit to the city as well as to residents. “As the city expands, the water department has to meet demand,” she says. “It can be very costly. But if we drop usage, it wills save us money and [help us avoid] adding new infrastructure.” 

While the rebate serves as a water conservation measure, the impacts run much deeper than cost savings: SpokaneScapes are meant to be beautiful. The program incentivizes smart design and offers a recommended list of regionally tried-and-true trees, shrubs, and other perennials. 

Conserving water and saving money by laying drip irrigation. // Photo by Summer Hess

“One of the reasons we are requiring plants is to make Spokane more beautiful than just a bed of rock mulch,” which a few early design applications tried to deploy. Those interested in edible landscapes will be happy to know what berries and fruit trees are on the list, and raise beds can also qualify as part of a design plan. 

Although the upfront effort can be daunting, the Water Stewardship team is available to help. So are a dozen local nurseries and landscape professionals, all trained in the SpokaneScape guidelines and listed on the city’s website. Once fully installed, SpokaneScape designs are lower maintenance than traditional lawns. They are also better for our pollinators and aquifer, too.

How the SpokaneScape Program Works 

To fill out the initial application, go to the City of Spokane’s Slow the Flow page. Have your city account number and be ready with 2-4 photos of your existing lawn in the proposed project area. Upon submission, the Water Stewardship team will send you an email to confirm funding. The full online design application is due two weeks after receiving the confirmation email, although people are encouraged to reach out if the timeline isn’t attainable.  

Sample SpokaneScape // Photo courtesy City of Spokane

The city will review the design and then contact applicants to schedule a mandatory pre-inspection. Pre-inspections last 45 minutes and are required before beginning any conversion work. At the pre-inspection, staff will also verify measurements, take additional photos, offer advice, and answer any questions. Following your successful pre-inspection, which will take roughly a week to schedule, you will be authorized to proceed with your SpokaneScape installation. 

Participants are given 90 days to complete their installations, although extensions are available for those who qualify. This timeline ensures that all the designated money is distributed, so if someone applies and has to abandon their project, the funds can be released to someone else. When your landscaping work is 100% complete, submit a final inspection request. Another staff member will come out to inspect your work and approve your rebate for your City of Spokane utility bill. 

Summer Hess is the managing editor of Out There. She’s looking forward to re-designing her own lawn this spring.  

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