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California DWR 2008 Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance AB 1881

  California State: Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance AB 1881
Authoring legislation
What DWR is doing
Rulemaking Process
How to Participate

In 2004, AB 2717 was passed, it requested the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) to convene a stakeholder task force, composed of public and private agencies, to evaluate and recommend proposals by December 31, 2005, for improving the efficiency of water use in new and existing urban irrigated landscapes in California. Based on this charge, the Task Force adopted a comprehensive set of 43 recommendations, essentially making changes to the AB 325 of 1990 and updating the Model Local Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. The recommendation of the bill charges DWR to update the Model Efficient Landscape Ordinance and to upgrade CIMIS.

The Water Conservation in Landscaping Act of 2006 (AB 1881) enacts many, but not all of the recommendations reported to the Governor and Legislature in December 2005 by the CUWCC Landscape Task Force (Task Force). AB 1881 requires DWR, not later than January 1, 2009, by regulation, to update the model ordinance in accordance with specified requirements, reflecting the provisions of AB 2717. AB 1881 requires local agencies, not later January 1, 2010, to adopt the updated model ordinance or equivalent or it will be automatically adopted by statute. Also, the bill requires the Energy Commission, in consultation with the department, to adopt, by regulation, performance standards and labeling requirements for landscape irrigation equipment, including irrigation controllers, moisture sensors, emission devices, and valves to reduce the wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy or water.

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 Authoring legislation

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 What DWR is doing

ET Adjustment Factors

Assembly Bill 1881 requires the Department to update the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance by January 1, 2009. Before adopting the updated ordinance, DWR must report to the Legislature the extent local agencies have complied with the 1990 model water efficient landscape ordinance (AB325-1990). Also included in this report will be a recommendation of what the landscape water budget, or the ET adjustment factor, should be in the updated Model Ordinance.

The Department of Water Resources has formed a Technical Advisory Committee to guide updating the Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor. The technical advisory committee members represent a broad group of organizations, agencies, and the green industry. The existing Model Ordinance established a water budget based on the size of the landscape, reference evapotranspiration, and an ET Adjustment Factor. The ET Adjustment Factor when applied to ETo, adjusts the amount of water needed to be applied to the landscape accounting for plant factor and irrigation efficiency. A field verified ET Adjustment Factor or best available data and current knowledge, and surveys were needed to be completed in order to make the recommendation.

In the existing Model Ordinance, the ET Adjustment Factor is 0.8. Based on expected increase in irrigation efficiency to 71 percent, AB 2717 Taskforce proposed to lower the ET Adjustment Factor to 0.7. A combined plant mix remains the same with a plant factor of 0.5. Leading to the ET Adjustment Factor of (0.5/0.71) 0.7. A state-wide plant factor of 0.5 comes from a mix of approximately 1/3 high, 1/3 medium and 1/3 low water using plants. DWR has prepared draft Whitepaper examining existing information and making a recommendation for the ETAF. The recommended ETAF is 0.7 with average irrigation efficiency of 0.71 and plant factor of 0.5.

DWR White Paper: Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor, January 25, 2008


In order to submit the report to the Legislature, the Office of Water Use Efficiency and Transfers will conduct a survey of local agencies regarding their adoption and implementation of the 1990 model ordinance. The survey will be sent to county and city planning departments and water conservation coordinators of local water suppliers. In addition OWUET will ask a few questions regarding graywater in response to the AB 1881 recommendation, to “Facilitate the use of graywater”.

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 Rulemaking Process
In order for the state to adopt an updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (per the requirements of Statutes of 2006, AB 1881 Chapter 552), a rulemaking process is necessary. The Office of Administrative Law’s (OAL) Administrative Procedures Act (Government Code Section 11340-11342.4) defines the rulemaking process (see “How to Participate section” below for details). DWR initiated the rulemaking process for the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance in January 2008.

The rulemaking process ensures that the public will be informed of the updates of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance before it takes effect. The public can comment and provide additional information to DWR. DWR will analyze and respond to the public comment. DWR will create a permanent record of its analysis and the rulemaking process.

The tentative schedule for the rulemaking process is as follows:

February 8, 2008
DWR posted the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and released a draft of the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

March 2008
DWR hosted two public hearings on the draft of the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance March 25, 2008 and March 27, 2008.

Spring/Summer 2008

  • DWR will summarize, analyze and respond to public comments.

Summer/Fall 2008

  • DWR will submit updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and rulemaking package to Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
  • OAL will begin its 30 day review period on updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance and the DWR rulemaking package.
  • Upon OAL approval of the DWR rulemaking package, DWR will proceed with the adoption process of the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

January 2009
DWR will adopt the updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

January 2010
Local agencies, as required by law, will adopt updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance or one that is “at least as effective as”.

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