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California Panel Mandates Low-Water Lawns On New Buildings

California regulators voted Friday to limit how much water can be used to irrigate lawns on new and renovated buildings.

The state Building Standards Commission took the action in response to Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order to save water during the four-year drought.

The standards include limits on how much water can be used on landscapes over certain sizes. Water can be saved by planting shrubs and bushes instead of grass and installing slow-trickling valves instead of sprinklers.


New and renovated developments proposed after June must follow the rules. It's up to local governments to enforce the rules that involve new and renovated homes, office buildings, schools and hospitals.

The rules don't spell out how lawns should be watered or what types of grass and shrubs should be planted, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Department of General Services.

Instead, the standards lay out how much water should be used depending on the size of landscapes.

The State Water Resources Control Board has already prohibited watering lawns that don't meet rules developed by the commission.

California officials have targeted the watering of ornamental lawns as an easy sacrifice for saving water, noting that outdoor irrigation accounts for roughly half of residential water use.


Communities are under order to cut water use by as much as 36 percent compared to 2013 levels.

Programs giving residents cash to rip out grass and add drought-tolerant shrubs and bushes are growing in popularity.

Brown's executive order also called for a ban on traditional sprinklers in favor of drip irrigation and micro spray. His administration has since decided that wasn't an effective way of saving water.