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Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

August 14, 2017

Zoning Text Amendment

About half of urban water in California is used for landscape irrigation. To improve water savings in this sector, Governor Brown issued Executive Order No. B-29-50, which required the Department of Water Resources to update its 2010 Draft Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance to the California Water Commission (Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, or WELO). The Model Ordinance promotes efficient landscapes in new developments and retrofitted landscapes. The ordinance’s requirements became effective December 1, 2015

In response to these changes in State law, the County Planning Division of the Community Development Resource Agency has prepared a new ordinance which is expected to be heard by the County Planning Commission on August 24, 2017. 

The purpose of the proposed WELO Zoning Text Amendment is to bring applicable regulations into compliance with recent changes to state law. Based on the new State laws, the County’s current Zoning Ordinance, Building Code, and Landscape Design Guidelines must be amended. The proposed changes do not apply to the Tahoe Basin. Landscaping within the basin is included in the Tahoe Basin Area Plan.

Goals of Ordinance

  • Promote water-efficient landscapes in new developments and retrofitted landscapes
  • Prevent water waste and increase efficient irrigation
  • Limit turf
  • Encourage use of graywater and recycled water


WELO applies to new construction projects proposing a landscape greater than 500 sq.ft. (previously 2,500 sq.ft.), or rehabilitated landscape projects proposing an aggregated landscape area greater than 2,500 sq.ft. (e.g. Redevelopment/ Remodel). Projects must require a building permit, plan check, or design review, and must include landscaping as part of the project.

Key Provisions of Ordinance

  • Turf limits
  • Automatic irrigation with manual shut-off valves, soil moisture sensor data, rain sensors
  • Most plants require little or no summer water
  • Compost and mulch requirements
  • Landscape design plans

If I have questions about the WELO what can I do? 
Information about the state Model WELO can be found at For questions or comments, please contact Emily Setzer at 530-745-3067 or at