Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance
In order to protect the State’s limited water resources and increase water conservation in landscaping, the state passed Assembly Bill 1881 in 2006. In response to the bill, the Department of Water Resources adopted the State’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO). In 2015, the ordinance was updated by Governor Jerry Brown to further promote water conservation efforts and increase landscape irrigation efficiency. The MWELO reduces landscape-related water use by promoting water-efficient landscapes, limiting turf, preventing waste water, and incentivizing the use of graywater and recycled water in new construction and rehabilitated projects. More information on the State’s MWELO can be found at the Department of Water Resources’ website.
In order to comply with the State updates, Placer County’s Board of Supervisors adopted its own Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (PDF) (WELO) and updated Landscape Design Guidelines (PDF) in 2017. WELO provides an efficient and effective route for new construction and remodeled or rehabilitated projects.
Projects Subject to WELO
WELO requirements apply to any new or rehabilitated/remodeled construction project that meets all of the following parameters:
- Includes a new landscape equal to or greater than 500 square feet, or any remodeled or rehabilitated project with a landscape greater than 2,500 square feet
- Requires landscaping as part of the project
- Requires either a permit, plan check, or design review
Landscape includes all turf, planting areas, and water features. It does not include any hardscapes or non-irrigated areas such as open space or existing native vegetation.
To better understand whether your project is subject to WELO, please see the WELO Flowchart (PDF).
Meeting WELO Requirements
There are two ways to comply with WELO, depending on the size of your project. The Prescriptive Compliance Option allows for a streamlined approach for new construction and rehabilitated projects that include landscapes between 500 square feet and 4,999 square feet. The Landscape Documentation Package can be used for all projects, but is required for all new construction and rehabilitated projects that include landscapes greater than 5,000 square feet.
Prescriptive Compliance Option
The Prescriptive Compliance Option requires applicants to meet requirements on a checklist, such as limiting water use, incorporating mulch and compost, limiting turf area, and providing a landscape design plan, landscape area calculations, irrigation schedule, landscape and irrigation maintenance schedule, and certificates of installation and completion. This approach allows the property owner or applicant to self-certify that they meet the requirements.
Landscape Documentation Package
The Landscape Documentation Package is used for larger projects and requires applicants to estimate their maximum allowed water usage and their estimated water usage. This package involves more requirements than the Prescriptive Compliance Option, including a landscape design plan certified by a landscape architect, a soil management report, and irrigation and landscape maintenance plans.
Calculations & Measurements
- State Save Our Water - Measuring Project Area Square Footage Handout (PDF)
- Water Budget Calculator for New and Rehabilitated Non-Residential Landscapes (XLSM)
- Water Budget Calculator for New and Rehabilitated Residential Landscapes (XLSM)
- Water budget calculators, reporting forms and more from the Department of Water Resources
Compost, Mulch & Soil
- CalRecycle provides local sources for bulk recycled compost, mulch and sheet mulch materials.
- California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) maintains a comprehensive invasive plant inventory.
- PlantRight lists invasive garden plants by region with recommended alternatives.
- Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) Plant Database provides water use data for thousands of plants (most of Placer County is located within the Central Valley section).