Climate Action Plan - Measure W-1.2

Reduce Outdoor Water Use


This measure requires a 40% reduction in outdoor water use for landscaping budgets for new and existing residential and non-residential development by the year 2020. This measure requires an amendment of the County’s Water Conservation in Landscaping Ordinance. Reducing potable water used for landscaping conserves a precious resource, protects the San Diego region against drought, and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 2020 Target: Amend Title 8 of the San Diego County Code of Regulatory Ordinances (Water Conservation in Landscaping) 
  • 2030 Target: Achieve 40% reduction in outdoor water use in landscaping in new and existing development by 2030

Where are we going?

By 2020, the County will update the Water Conservation in Landscape Ordinance, Water Conservation Landscape Design Manual, and associated water use authorization application materials in compliance with state standards. The Landscape Ordinance Update will require that new and existing residential and non-residential development implement water conserving measures in landscaping. The County will collaborate with the San Diego County Water Authority and local water districts to provide education and outreach to property owners on drought-tolerant landscaping and the benefits of drought-tolerant plant species.

How is this Measured?

Reducing the amount of potable water used in landscaping avoids greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel electricity power used to treat, store, transport, and deliver water. The County will develop updated water budget calculations to achieve a 40% reduction in water used in residential and non-residential landscaping applications. By tracking overall landscaping water demand, the County can calculate associated greenhouse gas emissions reductions and ensure policy compliance. Existing landscapes will be required to comply with this new requirement when a permit requirement is triggered.

Why is this important?

The amended ordinance will result in additional water conservation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and an increased drought resiliency. This will result in reduced water and electric bills for home and business owners, reduced dependency on the County’s imported water supply, and a reduction in polluted runoff. Choosing plants suitable for San Diego’s climate in landscaping projects retains moisture in the soil, protects against erosion, and supports and nurtures local endemic species of plants and animals.
Property owners can make water efficient improvements and retrofits, and replace landscaping with artificial turf, mulch or xeriscape to reduce potable water used to irrigate landscaping. Check out the newly opened Borrego Springs Library, Park, and Sheriff’s office, which features innovative water catchment systems, a drip irrigation system, and southwest native plants suited to the desert environment. New County facilities including the North Coastal HHSA Regional Center, ARCC East County, and the Santa Ysabel Nature Center will also feature water efficient and water wise landscaping design.