Water Efficient Landscaping

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Landscaping enhances the environment and is essential  to quality of life, but it also uses large amounts of water, which is increasingly scarce.  The State of California responded to both needs  by requiring cities to adopt  water conservation ordinances by 2010. The Vacaville Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance can be found here.


The landscaping practices set forth in the code provide useful guidelines for all local landscaping, it is applied only to new and refurbished landscaping projects.  All are encouraged to peruse and apply these practices.


Do the requirements apply to me?

The requirements of the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance apply to owners of residential, commercial, municipal, and mixed-use properties with a new landscape construction project of 500 square feet or more, or to a rehabilitated landscape project of 2,500 square feet or more.  All properties must comply with additional landscaping regulations outlined in the city code.

Frequently asked questions:

 Question  Answer
 Can I take out my front yard landscaping and plant grass? The ordinance does not prohibit a home owner from replacing a landscaped area of less than 2,500 square feet with grass.   If the landscape area is over 2,500 square feet, then it must meet the water efficient landscaping requirements, which means it cannot be all grass. 
 I'm having a new home built.  Can I have the builder just install lawn?  No.  The ordinance requires new landscaped areas to be water efficient.  It can include part lawn, but cannot be entirely lawn.
 Can I put concrete or asphalt in my front yard instead of landscaping?  No more than 50% of a front yard can be impervious surface, such as asphalt or concrete, according to of the Vacaville Municipal Code.
 Can I use artificial turf in my yard?  Yes, but it has to be turf rated for lawns. Indoor/outdoor carpeting cannot be used. Refer to 8.10.020, Definitions in the Vacaville Municipal Code.


How do I comply?

A project applicant must submit a Landscape Documentation Package to Current Planning when applying for a permit. Once the permit is issued the applicant must submit a copy of the Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet to the City of Vacaville or the local water purveyor. The documentation package requires information on: total landscape area, project type, and water supply type. These factors impact the requirements. The Worksheet provides equations to determine the water budget calculation, including Maximum Applied Water Allowance (MAWA) and Estimated Total Water Use (ETWU). MAWA is calculated based on the maximum evapotranspiration adjustment factor allowed, these are set rates based on whether the project is residential, commercial or industrial.  ETWU is calculated based on the plants used and irrigation method selected. Both calculations adjust for Evapotranspiration, which is based on average annual rainfall. Estimated Total Water Use must be less than the Maximum Applied Water Allowance, as determined by the worksheet.

To monitor compliance, non-residential irrigated landscapes between 1,000-5,000 square feet require a dedicated water meter(s) for the irrigation system. The same is true for residential landscaping of 5,000 square feet or more.


Water Efficient Landscaping Practices

The following practices are required for new and refurbished projects, and encouraged for all other landscaping.

Soil  Plants  Irrigation/Water Features
 Reduce compaction to increase water retention  Plant climate appropriate shade trees  Consider evaporation from surface areas of water features-- this must be included the water budget calculation.
 Add compost at 4 cubic yards/1,000 sq. feet  Use native plants  Use drip irrigation
 Minimum of 3 inches of mulch over 95% of the area  Do not use invasive plants  Install flow sensors, automatic controls and  weather sensors to avoid overwatering
 Stabilize slopes with appropriate mulch  Plant hydrozones of plants with similar water usage  Use pool and spa covers (highly recommended but not required)
 No turf on slopes greater than 25%  Use Sunset Climate Zone System when choosing plants  Use recirculating water for water features