The Governor of California has recently announced that water restriction regulations will now be the responsibility of local water providers.

While the recent rainfall and Californians’ adherence to state-mandated water restrictions has improved our water supplies, we must hold fast to these best practices to ensure further statewide sustainability.

Learn more ideas for drought tolerant landscaping in San Diego, CA, water incentives available in California, how to avoid penalties for water restrictions, and what you can do at home.

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“People should realize we are in a new era…the idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.” – Governor Brown

Governor Brown has asked local governments to help make the change from grass lawns to sustainable landscapes and eliminate 50 million square feet of water gulping lawns. This is not the first time restrictions have been placed on water usage, but the fact there are now mandatory and enforceable fines make it a reality.

What are the New California Water Restrictions?

Over the past few years, there have been many new regulations and restrictions on water usage implemented in California. The latest mandatory water restrictions meant to deal with the drought are based on near-crisis proportions after a 2014 winter of record-low snowfalls.

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These emergency water restrictions have been adopted to safeguard California’s remaining water supplies and were designed to achieve a 20% reduction in water consumption.

Local water agencies can still fine property owners up to $500 per day for failure to implement conservation requirements. Regulated by the State Water Board, agencies that do not impose mandatory conservation measures upon their retail customers are subject to a civil liability of up to $10,000 per day.

“In a drought this severe, we need to think differently about our daily water use, and need to sacrifice emerald green lawns and other water use luxuries.” – State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.

For a full listing of all Emergency Conservation Regulations visit the State Water Resources Control Board website.

What is Prohibited for Everyone in California?

  • Runoff when irrigating with potable water.
  • Using hoses with no shutoff nozzles to wash cars.
  • Using potable water to wash sidewalks & driveways.
  • Using potable water in decorative water features that don’t recirculate water.
  • Using outdoor irrigation during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation (rain).

What is Prohibited in San Diego?

Previous City of San Diego Water Use Restrictions from Oct. 2014 include:

  • The overfilling of pools and spas is prohibited.
  • Wash vehicles before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. in the summer.
  • Water no more than three days per week, before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. in the summer and after 4 p.m. in the winter
  • When watering without an irrigation system, a shutoff nozzle or garden hose sprinkler on a timer should be used.
  • Limit use of fire hydrants for firefighting, construction, health, and safety.
  • Immediately fix any water leaks and don’t use a running hose to wash down driveways, sidewalks, patios or other paved areas.
  • Restaurants should only serve or refill water for patrons upon request.

From the San Diego Water Use Restrictions. (


What are the New Requirements for Businesses?

    • Restaurant and other food service establishments can only serve water to customers on request.
    • Hotels and motels must provide guests with the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily.
    • Guests in hotels, motels, and other commercial lodging establishments will be provided the option of not laundering towels and linens daily.
    • Agricultural water users are required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state’s ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste.

Who will Enforce the New Water Restrictions?

Water suppliers will have the most information about water use and will, therefore, be enforced by the State Water Board to comply with new restrictions. With a potential $10,000 daily fine you should expect the water agencies to be motivating customers to take even more responsibility for the amount of water used in homes, backyards, businesses, parks, and everywhere else.

The water suppliers are required to:

  • Impose restrictions on outdoor irrigation
  • Report on compliance and enforcement
  • Report on water used monthly
  • Notify customers about leaks that are within the customer’s control

You can also report waste and unreasonable water use!

Use the Cal/EPA Environmental Complaint Form – For smaller water suppliers, the expanded regulation clarifies that if they choose to implement alternate mandatory measures, in lieu of limiting outdoor irrigation to twice a week, those measures should be designed to achieve a 20 percent reduction in water consumption.

Local agencies can fine property owners up to $500 a day for failure to implement conservation requirements. California Urban Water Conservation Council

What Can I do to Comply with New California Water Restrictions?

For more than two years, California’s experts have been managing water resources to ensure that we survive this drought, but after another dry winter, it is time to take more aggressive steps.

What Can Everyone do to Reduce Water Usage?

Whether or not you own a home, reducing your personal water usage is the first step all Californians can take to meet Governor Brown’s mandate to reduce usage by 25%. From fixing leaky faucets to installing more efficient appliances, there are over 100 ways to conserve water at home.

What Can Homeowners do?

One of the biggest things that homeowners can do is to replace their water-hungry lawns with low-water xeriscape landscaping. If you want to maintain you lawn area, instead of using xeriscaping, you can simply remove the turf and replace with different plant material that will be less maintenance, require less water, and still be able to walk on. Some of our favorite lawn alternatives are: Synthetic turf, Paspalum turf grass, no mow fine fescues, Dymondia, and select species of sedges and ornamental fescues.

What Can Businesses do?

Businesses can also remove areas of turf to replace with native plants, spreading ground covers, and a mixture of locally sourced gravels and cobblestones. They can also convert or upgrade their existing irrigation controller to a smart controller which has components that will be able to limit the watering schedule based on atmospheric moisture, including rain events, and soil moisture.

What Can HOAs do?

HOAs can minimize the areas of turf located in common areas of their community by only keeping turf areas actively used for recreation. An HOA can also enforce the County/State efficient landscape water ordinances for new landscape renovations by limiting the square footage of high water use plants including turf areas. For large slope areas, traditional spray/rotor heads can be replaced with low flow nozzles.

What are the fines for watering infractions in San Diego?

With fines for watering infractions listed around $2500 per day, redesigning your lawn or landscape is a cost effective strategy to keep your home looking fresh while following the mandatory restrictions.

There are several penalties that can result from reckless water use, but the easiest preventative measure is to educate yourself on how to adhere to restrictions. According to the City of San Diego, the following escalating actions may occur with repeat offenses, you will be:

    • Given a warning that you have violated the water restrictions.
    • Issued a fine and the amount will depend on the occurrence or severity of the offense. These fines could be either $100, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000.
    • Referred to the “City Attorney for Civil or Criminal prosecution.”
    • Cut off from water service.

Where can I learn more about water incentives in San Diego?

Each city has its own ordinances for water conservation incentives. Here are some examples of how you can research the water incentives by using a simple online search.

When you enter your low-water-use landscape into the Sweetwater Authority California Friendly Landscape Contest for National City, you could win a $250.00 gift card. In addition, the Sweetwater Authority offers classes on how to be a Waterwise Gardener. Classes are held regularly for those who want to learn how to save water and still have a beautiful yard.

Residents of the City of Escondido can get rebates on water-saving devices and turf replacement. The turf replacement program offers up to $1.50 per square foot in rebates when lawn is replaced with low-water-use plants. Some of the best plants to use in our area include succulents, such as yuccas and plants from the bromeliad family. The look can still be dramatic, as seen in our La Jolla renovation.

The City of Encinitas provides a free workshop to homeowners who want to learn more about planting a WaterSmart landscape. This three-hour class covers irrigation and plant selection. The city also offers a landscape makeover workshop series that can give you information on removing turf and adding water-friendly plantings. Incorporating stone and mounded plantings can provide a lush look without needing a lot of watering.

Eco Minded Solutions for Water Conservation

As landscape architects and designers, we utilize a combination of native, drought-resistant plants, smart irrigation, and energy efficient lighting to create a lush setting that compliments the style of your home. Think about the ways that you can improve your home in your next landscape renovation while also adding water conservation strategies.

Smart Irrigation Systems

As San Diegans strive to cut back on water usage by 20% during the Drought Alert, many are faced with the dilemma of how to care for their lawn and landscape while still conserving water and protecting the environment we all live in.

Drip irrigation systems can be installed in your garden to feed your plants a precise amount of water on a specific schedule. Efficient drip systems can significantly reduce the amount of water you use each month.

At Eco Minded Solutions, we believe your landscape can be both beautiful and environmentally friendly, even when facing droughts. We assist property owners around San Diego by designing environmentally conscious landscapes including implementing water-conserving irrigation systems.

Smart Irrigation Controllers use sensors and weather information to manage watering times and frequencies. Your Sprinklers will automatically turn off during rain, high winds, and low temperatures.


A popular landscape design option for San Diego property owners is xeriscaping (aka zero-scape). Xeriscaping is an environmentally friendly gardening and landscaping style that reduces the use of water, energy, and chemical fertilizers as much as possible.

Xeriscaping is a beautiful and cost-effective option to reduce water consumption. Xeriscaping requires less time and energy to maintain, meaning you can spend more time enjoying your outdoor oasis than tending to it.

Native planting is also suggested so that you choose the best plants for San Diegothat have adapted to the geographical area. Often they will require much less water if they are native to San Diego.

Hardscape Design

Another alternative to a sprawling lawn is hardscape design.

Make the most of your outdoor space by turning it into a useable extension of your home. Eco Minded Solutions specializes in environmentally conscious construction to transform your home.

Relax outside next to a custom fire pit with your family on cool evenings, or host a barbecue in your outdoor kitchen. There are numerous options to turn your yard into a usable hardscape that perfectly compliments your lifestyle while reducing your water consumption.


Tips From the Professionals

Designed to comply with local and state water ordinance by using California friendly drought-resistant vegetation, minimized turf areas, soil improvements, and mulch. Eco Minded Solutions water-wise landscape design and development techniques guarantee added beauty to your property and a reduction in water use.


Methods for Saving Water

  • Install High-efficiency nozzle retrofits for large rotary sprinklers.
  • Install dedicated landscape water meters for monitoring water budget and leak detection.
  • Install covers on pools and spas to reduce evaporation.
  • Apply mulch to exposed earth in planter beds to lessen water evaporation.
  • Water vegetation only in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation.
  • Hydro-seeding costs half the price of installing sod. It grows fast and requires less frequent watering.
  • Aeration of your lawn improves the physical properties of soil; therefore, improving water retention and helping to significantly reduce water costs.
  • Top dress your lawn to increase nutrition uptake of the plants, balance moisture content of soil, alleviate compaction and enhance root development.
  • Reducing your lush lawn to only what you use. Save your thirsty plants in an oasis near entryways and places in your landscape where you spend time.
  • Watering infrequently and deeply is much more efficient than frequent and shallow watering.

Reduce Water to 2 Days Per week: Deep Watering Strategies

Make the best use of expensive water regardless of how thirsty your landscape may be and reduce your water bill with healthier, more drought-resilient plants by watering deeply.

Avoid shallow watering because it creates shallow roots. Plants with shallow roots are dependent on their next dose of water and their water is more likely to be evaporated from the soil surface.

This works best if you have San Diego clay. It may take several days to penetrate the clay but it will retain that water for longer periods of time. If you have sand or decomposed granite-based soils, the water fill filter through quickly, and will not be retained as easily for deep watering.

  • Adjust your watering schedule to send your plant’s roots deeper and reduce water consumption.
  • Water daily for a week, so the water will soak down at least a foot in the soil profile.
  • Check that the soil is saturated with a narrow shovel or hand spade to see how deep the water is percolating into your soil.
  • Begin to decrease the frequency of watering gradually – to every other day, then to every 3 days until you fulfill the San Diego water restriction of watering 2 days per week for 5 minutes.

We Can Help With a Water Wise Consultation!

Every landscape and home design solution we provide puts the environment first. Call us at 858-683-8052 or contact us to schedule a free consultation to see how we can help you save water on your property and how to comply with the most recent water restrictions in California.

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