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, along with Measure A-2.1 Increase Residential Tree Planting, 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?

On June 24, 2020, the County Board of Supervisors adopted amendments to the Water Conservation in Landscaping Ordinance, and updates to the Water Efficient Landscape Design Manual, and associated water use authorization application materials in compliance with state standards. The Landscaping Ordinance Update requires landscaping water conservation for new and existing residential and non-residential development. The County collaborates with the San Diego County Water Authority and local water districts to provide education and outreach to property owners, nurseries, and other stakeholders 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 developed updated water budget calculations to achieve a 40% reduction in water used in residential and non-residential landscaping applications from 2014 levels. By tracking overall landscaping water demand, the County can calculate associated greenhouse gas emissions reductions and ensure policy compliance. Existing landscapes will only be held to this new requirement when creating a new landscaped area of greater than 500 square feet or more.

Why is this important?

The ordinance revision amended regulations and procedures for the protection and conservation of water, a precious natural resource. By complying with these regulations, homeowners can save money on water and electric bills, reduce dependency on the County’s imported water supply, and reduce the amount of 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 Santa Ysabel Nature Center, Lakeside Library, and Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk East County Branch Office and Archive in Santee for water efficient and water wise landscaping design ideas.