Sustainable Landscape Ordinance


In 2015, the State of California enacted major changes to the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, marking a groundbreaking shift toward landscape design and management practices better suited to the state's climates and conditions. The Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) was established to promote water efficiency for new and rehabilitated landscapes. About half of California's urban water use is attributed to landscape irrigation and through proper landscape design, installation and maintenance, substantial water savings can be achieved.

MWELO Adoption by County of Santa Clara

The County of Santa Clara adopted modified version of MWELO with some changes in the language and definitions best suited to the local area. The County's version of MWELO is titled as "County of Santa Clara Sustainable Landscape Ordinance". The State intends to update MWELO every three years, and the County's Sustainable Landscape Ordinance will be updated to reflect these anticipated updates to MWELO.

What is A Sustainable Landscape?

A Sustainable Landscape is a whole system approach to the design, construction and maintenance of the landscape in order to support the integrity of the regional watershed and local ecology. A sustainable landscape embodies community values for health and safety, wildlife and the environment. It is a healthy and resilient landscape that will endure over the long term and without the need for a high input of resources. The natural functions and processes of the landscape are able to maintain themselves into the future.

What does this mean for me?

Depending on the type of landscape you work with, you may be subject to Sustainable Landscape Ordinance requirements enforced by local land use agencies such as County of Santa Clara.

How do I know if I need to follow County's Sustainable Landscape Ordinance Standards?

To ensure the efficient use of water for all Santa Clara County (unincorporated areas) landscapes, projects with 500 square feet or more of new or modified landscape area are required to comply with the County's Sustainable Landscape Ordinance. Projects must design, install, and maintain efficient irrigation systems, utilize low water-use plantings, and set a Maximum Applied Water Allowance, also known as an annual water budget. If you are pursuing a project associated with landscape subject to County's Planning Department review and/or subject to a county permit, County's Sustainable Landscape Ordinance may be applicable. Other exceptions and restrictions may apply.

Follow the guide below to find out if your landscape meets the parameters of the County's Sustainable Landscape Ordinance requirements.

Does WELO apply to me?

Examples of elements needed on Building and Grading Permit Plans

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