California continues some outdoor watering bans

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June 8, 2023 — The State Water Resources Control Board of California has reinstated an emergency ordinanceOpens in a new tab. prohibiting the use of drinking water for the irrigation of decorative grass in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas throughout the state. This re-establishment underscores the urgency for Californians to continue their prudent use of water, aligning with Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued in March 2023. The order acknowledges the consequences of the ongoing multi-year drought on communities with unstable water supplies across the state.

Despite some improvements, extreme drought conditions persist in certain areas of the state, including those with depleted groundwater basins. Consequently, this renewed regulation aims to conserve water by restricting its use on non-functional turf grass that is primarily ornamental and not utilized for recreational or community activities.

Common examples of such areas would include the grass surrounding commercial buildings or certain common areas managed by homeowners’ associations. However, the regulation delineates certain exemptions:

  • Grass used for recreational or other community activities is not subject to this ban.
  • Residential lawns or trees are excluded from this prohibition.
  • The use of recycled water for irrigating non-functional turf is permitted.
  • Encouragement from the state for residents to continue watering trees due to their crucial environmental contribution.

Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Board, commentedOpens in a new tab., “This reinstated regulation embodies our collective responsibility to restrict non-essential outdoor water use while the state is combatting extreme weather and bracing for potentially dry conditions in the summer and subsequent wet season. It will enable us to further safeguard California’s water resources under increasingly hot and arid conditions.”

Originally introduced in May 2022, the regulation was enacted in June 2022. Following approval by the Office of Administrative Law and filing with the Secretary of State, the ban’s extension will be effective for another year. Had it not been reinstated, the ban would have expired this month.

With this reinstatement, two State Water Board emergency regulations for water conservation are in effect. The other, readopted in December 2022, forbids wasteful water use, such as outdoor watering that causes substantial run-off onto sidewalks or using drinking water to wash hard surfaces. Violations of these prohibitions, including the newly extended non-functional turf watering ban, are considered infractions.

The enforcement of the existing water regulations remains under the jurisdiction of water suppliers and local governments. In some areas, local ordinances or plans mandate similar prohibitions.

More information is available at the State’s Water Conservation PortalOpens in a new tab..


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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