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California drought prompts tough new landscaping rules



June 20, 2015

Sprinklers water lawns in arid zone gardens

Thirsty green lawns will be a thing of the past under drought-stricken California’s new draft landscaping laws. The Department of Water Resources wants to cut residential water use by 30% as about half of the state’s urban water use is on residential landscapes.

The new ‘Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance’ is scheduled for July 15 and all cities and counties will have to adopt it by November 2015, or have their own local plans that save an equal or greater amount of water. The ordinance will apply to all homes with new landscapes bigger than a tiny 500 square feet (46m²), and includes a requirement for all larger landscapes (more than 5000 square feet, or 465m²) to have a separate water meter for garden use.

lawn watering photo paulswansenCommercial developments will only be allowed to have turfed areas for specific requirements, such as sports fields and the new ‘Maximum Applied Water Allowance’ for home gardens will reduce the amount of turfed area to no more than 25%. Irrigation systems will have to be more efficient with pressure regulators, master valves, flow sensors to detect leaks, and a maximum precipitation rate of 1 inch per hour. Sprinkler irrigation will only be allowed for turf areas wider than 10 feet. Greywater recycling and onsite stormwater capture will be encouraged.

New landscapes will require extensive documentation, including a Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet with calculations about likely water use for all parts of the proposed garden. Landscape designers will need to include evapotranspiration rates and water-use projections for different plant types to create a total water budget for the site.

A current draft of the proposed new Californian landscape rules can be viewed HERE.


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