New water ordinance rules will affect more California landscaping

The revised ordinance will place further restrictions on water use. Photo: revised ordinance will place further restrictions on water use.

Proposed rule changes in California could soon mean that much smaller sites will fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. The changes recently moved one step closer to finalization. The public comment period on the revisions ended June 26 and they are now slated to go before the state’s Water Commission on July 16. Final adoption could come as soon as Aug. 19. The new Department of Water Resources (DWR) ordinance changes the landscape size threshold. Sites with square footage above the threshold are subject to the ordinance.

For all new construction, the revisions would reduce the threshold from 2,500 square feet to 500 square feet. While the threshold has been 2,500 square feet for public and private development, it is set at 5,000 square feet for owner-built custom homes. Other proposed changes include measures for efficient irrigation systems, greywater usage, onsite storm-water capture and limits on the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf.

Under state law, all land-use agencies, such as cities and counties, are required to adopt a water-efficient landscape ordinance that is at least as strict as the DWR ordinance. Those that do not adopt their own ordinances automatically come under the DWR ordinance.

A public draft of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance is available online.

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