Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Water efficient landscape ordinances in all of our futures?

SAN MARCOS, CA — You could look at California’s mandate that all jurisdictions there create water efficient landscape ordinances as either more government intrusion into the private realm or another step toward the professionalism of the state’s huge and largely unregulated landscape industry?

Or both, of course.

In 2006 the California legislature passed a bill requiring all local jurisdictions within the state to come up with a landscape ordinances aimed at reducing water waste on landscapes. The legislature said the ordinances must be in effect by Jan. 1, 2010. Even after three years of drought and calls for dramatic water use reduction throughout much of the state, and especially in Southern California, many cities are just now getting down to business on the issue.

Case in point — San Marcos, a city of about 90,000 people in northern San Diego County.

Here are some of the details of an ordinance the city is considering passing yet this year to beat the Jan. 1 deadline. (They are similar in many respects to ordinances that have already been adopted or are being considered elsewhere across the state.)

— Public agencies or developers constructing new buildings with 2,500 sq. ft. or more of landscaping or renovating a landscape of that size must apply for a permit.

— Homeowners constructing new buildings having 5,000 sq. ft. or more of landscaping or renovating a landscape that size must apply for a permit.

— Existing landscaped properties bigger than one acre would be required to audit irrigation water use immediately to help the city establish a database, and submit irrigation audits to the city every five years.

— To obtain a permit, applicants would need to submit a site plan and a plant list, and calculate their maximum water allowance according to a formula.

It wasn’t clear how the new regulations, once passed, would be enforced, or what the penalties for noncompliance would be, according to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune appearing Nov. 7.

It's not a matter of if similar laws will be floated elsewhere in the United States; it's just a matter of when. — Ron Hall

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