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Sustainable Urban Landscape > Sustainable Policies


Don Schultz

Phone: (619) 660-4023


Sustainable urban landscaping

Sustainable POLICIES


Climate and Water Restrictions

Southern California is among a limited number of places on earth with a Mediterranean climate. Seasonal rainfall results almost entirely from the procession of the westerly zone of frontal storms during the low-sun season. During the summer months, the subtropical high pressure zone dominates the seasonal weather and prevents rainfall by inhibiting rainstorms from forming.

Our enjoyment of this temperate climate and seasonal rainfall, however, comes at a cost. Recent growth in population and the subsequent demand for homes has created a strain on the natural resources of the region. State and local governments have responded with an increasingly restrictive series of laws and ordinances to protect the environment, conserve water resources, and limit the degradation of wild-land habitats.

THE WATER CONSERVATION ACT OF 2006 required all local governments to update their existing landscape ordinances to use water more efficiently.

Excerpt from the County of San Diego site:

"The Water Conservation Act of 2006 required all local governments to update their existing landscape ordinances to use water more efficiently.

San Diego County's previous ordinance required new commercial projects to create water budgets for their landscaping. The new ordinance will now require new residential construction to create landscape water budgets as well.

It will also ensure that new construction uses the latest irrigation technology to irrigate without wasting water like older, outdated methods and equipment."

Read more from the San Diego County manual


The Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance was adopted and approved by most cities in California. Although each have similar regulations, each city or county has a specific approved ordinance.

To access the approved ordinance that is specific to a city or county in California Read more...

California Department of Water Resources  


Landscape Development Package

San Diego County and City governments have signed into law sweeping changes in irrigation and drainage practices, restrictions in water usage and reclamation, and new requirements for the review and approvals process for new and remodeled sites. In most cases, a Landscape Development Package (LDP) must be approved prior to receiving a building permit.

The LDP generally requires the following:

  • Landscaping/Planting Plan
  • Irrigation Plan
  • Grading Design Plan
  • Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet
  • Soil Management Report

And a subsequent Certificate of Completion which provides:

  • Certification that the landscaping and irrigation system were installed and are functioning as designed and approved.
  • Irrigation schedule.
  • Landscape and irrigation system maintenance schedule.

Further restrictions apply. The County of San Diego has prepared a Water Efficient Landscape Design Manual to aid in land use and planning development.

Excerpt from the County of San Diego's Landscape Ordinance and Water Efficient Landscape Design Manual Web page:

"The Water Efficient Landscape Design Manual explains how people can comply with the new ordinance and how to create beautiful landscapes while using water efficiently and protecting people and properties from wildfires. We've also included several links to find more information about a host of subjects, from water, to water-friendly plants and landscaping, to County regulations and guidelines."


AB 1881 - Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

Water Regulations are Signed into Law

On September 10, 2009, the State of California introduced the Assembly Bill AB 1881 - "Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance" which became the local ordinance by default. The regulatory action became effective immediately.

The ordinance provisions include:

  •  Water budget based approach where the maximum water allowance is based on .7 ET Adjustment Factor.
  • Applicants must submit a Water Management Plan which includes calculations demonstrating compliance with the water budget.


A PDF of a slide presentation from the State of California Dept. of Water Resources

MWELO Ordinance 

Water Conservation

In response to drought conditions and a continuing water supply crisis, the City of San Diego has initiated incentives for both commercial and residential water customers to conserve water by offering rebates for smart controllers, micro-irrigation, and turf replacement.

Read more about the City of San Diego Public Utilities Water Conservation Program 

Career Technical Education

This web site is supported by Carl D. Perkins VTEA IC funds through the System. Office, California Community Colleges,
Grant #08-C01-020

Revised  January 22, 2014
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