The Town of Okotoks' Water Conservation Rebate program has returned for 2024.

It's an annual program that allows residents to submit receipts for certain water-conserving items, with a return reflected in their utility bills, or as either a cheque or an e-transfer for rebates over $1,500.

Environment and Sustainability Coordinator Jinny Toffelmire says the program is particularly relevant this year, with preparation for drought conditions having been stressed by the provincial government.

"The town really values everybody's water conservation efforts. We really hope that anyone who can, can participate in this program to use less water. Some of the expansions we've done this year are particularly with rain capture. We know that it's going to be a dry season so we're trying to enable people to do whatever they can to store more water on their yard to use in their flower gardens, in their veggie gardens. If you have a really big rainwater capture system, you might even be able to water your lawn with it. We're providing, money, it's up to 50 per cent up to a certain amount per rain barrel and up to four rain barrels per household."

Other garden-centric items included in the program are soaker hoses, watering timers, and WaterSense irrigation controllers.

Along with a long list of drought-tolerant plants, there's also a rebate for replacing fruit-bearing trees.

"Really, we're trying to target the smaller fruit trees that maybe people have just planted in the last couple of years. The reason for that is we don't want to get rid of our entire tree canopy, even though I understand there are some fruit-bearing trees out there that are very large. We encourage people to rake up that fruit when it's in their yards, so the deer don't eat it. In the meantime, if you have planted one in the last couple of years, we would encourage you to take part in this program. You can get up to $500 to take it out or put that towards a brand new drought-tolerant tree."

Another major item in this year's program, says Toffelmire, is drought-resistant turf and grass.

"The big one, I think this year, is drought-tolerant grass. We're providing 50 per cent up to $500. So, if you're putting in new sod this year or even if you are just going to overseed your lawn, we'd encourage you to take advantage of the rebate and get a drought-tolerant species."

Some questions have been raised about artificial turf, and if that has ever been considered for the program. According to Toffelmire, the program is designed not only to conserve water, but to enhance biodiversity, which artificial turf wouldn't contribute to.

Not all of the qualifying items are lawn and garden-based.

Indoor items include GeneralAire Water Savor controllers for flow-through humidifiers and WaterSense-labeled toilets.

More information on the program can be seen on the town's website.