Chapter 16.16


16.16.010    Purpose.

16.16.020    Definitions.

16.16.030    Applicability.

16.16.040    Landscape plan review and approval required.

16.16.050    Persons qualified to prepare landscape plans.

16.16.060    Contents of plans.

16.16.070    Landscape water conservation standards.

16.16.080    Alternative to turf limitations.

16.16.090    Final inspection/water audit.

16.16.100    Irrigation system management and maintenance.

16.16.110    Provision for existing landscaping over one acre in size.

16.16.120    Exceptions.

16.16.130    Administrative enforcement.

16.16.140    Limit of city responsibility.

16.16.010 PURPOSE.

The purposes of this chapter are to promote efficient water use, to manage peak season water demand, and to preserve water storage in order to ensure a reliable and adequate public water supply by regulating landscape design, construction, and maintenance. It is also the purpose of this chapter to comply with California Government Code Section 65591 et seq., the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).

16.16.020 DEFINITIONS.

For the purpose of this chapter, the following words shall have the meanings set forth below:

(a)    “Anti-drain check valve” means a valve located under a sprinkler head, or other location in the irrigation system, to hold water in the system to prevent drainage from the sprinkler head when the sprinkler is off.

(b)    “Applied water” means the portion of water supplied by the irrigation system to the landscape.

(c)    “Automatic irrigation controller” means an automatic timing device used to remotely control valves that operate an irrigation system. Automatic irrigation controllers schedule irrigation events using either evapotranspiration (weather-based) or soil moisture data.

(d)    “Backflow prevention device” means a safety device used to prevent pollution or contamination of the water supply due to the reverse flow of water from the irrigation system.

(e)    “CCF” means one hundred cubic feet, a common billing unit used by water agencies for basing charges for water service. One hundred cubic feet equals seven hundred forty-eight gallons.

(f)    “Certified irrigation designer” means a person certified to design irrigation systems by an accredited academic institution, a professional trade organization, or other program such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense irrigation designer certification program and Irrigation Association’s certified irrigation designer program.

(g)    “Certified landscape irrigation auditor” means a person certified to perform landscape irrigation audits by an accredited academic institution, a professional trade organization or other program such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense irrigation auditor certification program and Irrigation Association’s certified landscape irrigation auditor program.

(h)    “Common area” means those areas in a residential development that are owned, shared, and available for use by all residents, and managed by either the homeowner’s association or governing board.

(i)    “Community garden” means a plot of land used by a community group and open to the public for the cultivation of flowers, vegetables, edible plants, or fruit.

(j)    “Conversion factor (0.00083)” means the number that converts acre-inch per acre per year to CCF per square foot per year.

(k)    “Director” means the director of the water department of the city of Santa Cruz, or the director’s authorized representative.

(l)    “Drip irrigation” means any nonspray low volume irrigation system utilizing emission devices with a flow rate measured in gallons per hour. Low volume irrigation systems are specifically designed to apply small volumes of water slowly at or near the root zone of plants.

(m)    “Establishment period” means the first year after installing the plant in the landscape or the first two years if irrigation will be terminated after establishment. Typically, most plants are established after one or two years of growth.

(n)    “ET adjustment factor” means a factor of 0.55 for residential areas and 0.45 for nonresidential areas, that, when applied to reference evapotranspiration, adjusts for plant factors and irrigation efficiency, two major influences upon the amount of water that needs to be applied to the landscape.

(o)    “Expanded service” means an additional water meter or larger capacity meter is required to serve the proposed development, as determined by the water agency.

(p)    “Evapotranspiration rate” means the quantity of water evaporated from adjacent soil and other surfaces and transpired by plants during a specified time.

(q)    “Flow rate” means the rate at which water flows through pipes, valves and emission devices, measured in gallons per minute, gallons per hour, or cubic feet per second.

(r)    “Flow sensor” means an inline device installed at the supply point of the irrigation system that produces a repeatable signal proportional to flow rate for the purpose of reporting high flow conditions due to broken pipes or popped sprinkler heads. Flow sensors must be connected to an automatic irrigation controller or flow monitor capable of receiving flow signals and operating master valves.

(s)    “Friable” means a soil condition that is easily crumbled or loosely compacted down to a minimum depth per planting material requirements, whereby the root structure of the newly planted material will be allowed to spread unimpeded.

(t)    “Graywater” means untreated waste water that has not been contaminated by any toilet discharge and has not been affected by infectious, contaminated, or unhealthful bodily wastes and does not present a threat from contamination by unhealthful processing, manufacturing or operating wastes. Graywater includes, but is not limited to, wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, clothes washing machines, and laundry tubs, but does include wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers.

(u)    “Hydrozone” means a portion of the landscaped area having plants with similar water needs. A hydrozone may be irrigated or nonirrigated.

(v)    “Irrigation audit” means an in-depth evaluation of the performance of an irrigation system. An irrigation audit includes, but is not limited to: inspection, system tune-up, system test with distribution uniformity or emission uniformity, reporting overspray or runoff that causes overland flow, and preparation of an irrigation schedule.

(w)    “Irrigation efficiency” means the measurement of the amount of water beneficially used divided by the amount of water applied. Irrigation efficiency is derived from measurements and estimates of irrigation system characteristics and management practices.

(x)    “Irrigation survey” means an evaluation of an irrigation system that is less detailed than an irrigation audit. An irrigation survey includes, but is not limited to: inspection, system test, and written recommendations to improve performance of the irrigation system.

(y)    “Irrigation water use analysis” means an analysis of water use data based on meter readings and billing data.

(z)    “Landscape architect” means a person who holds a license to practice landscape architecture in California as further defined by the California Business and Professions Code, Section 5615.

(aa)    “Landscape area” means all the planting areas, turf areas, and water features in a landscape design plan subject to the landscape water budget calculation. The landscape area does not include footprints of buildings or structures, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, decks, patios, gravel or stone walks, other pervious or nonpervious hardscapes, other nonirrigated areas designated for nondevelopment (e.g., open spaces and existing native vegetation), agricultural uses, commercial nurseries and sod farms.

(bb)    “Landscape water budget” means the upper limit of annual applied water for the established landscaped area. It is based on the region’s reference evapotranspiration, type of plant material, and landscape area as specified in Section 16.16.070(b).

(cc)    “Landscape contractor” means a person licensed by the state of California to construct, maintain, repair, install, or subcontract the development of landscape systems.

(dd)    “Lateral line” means the water delivery pipeline that supplies water to the emitters or sprinklers from the valve.

(ee)    “Local agency” means a city or county, including a charter city or charter county, or water agency that is responsible for adopting and implementing this chapter. The local agency is also responsible for the enforcement of this chapter, including, but not limited to, in the case of a city or county, approval of a permit and plan check or design review of a project and, in the case of a water agency, approval of a new or expanded water service application.

(ff)    “Low volume irrigation” means the application of irrigation water at low pressure through a system of tubing or lateral lines and low volume emitters such as drip, drip lines, and bubblers.

(gg)    “Low water use plant” means a plant species whose water needs are compatible with local climate and soil conditions. Species classified as “very low water use” and “low water use” by WUCOLS, having a regionally adjusted plant factor of 0.0 through 0.3, shall be considered low water use plants.

(hh)    “Model water-efficient landscape ordinance” means the regulations developed by the California Department of Water Resources required by the California Water Conservation in Landscaping Act and contained in the California Code of Regulations, Title 23, Division 2, Chapter 2.7.

(ii)    “Modified service” means a substantial change in the water use characteristics of an existing service connection (for example, converting from a single-family residential service to multiple residential service, or from a residential use to a commercial use).

(jj)    “Mulch” means any organic material such as leaves, bark, straw, compost, or inorganic mineral materials such as rocks, gravel, and decomposed granite left loose and applied to the soil surface for the beneficial purposes of reducing evaporation, suppressing weeds, moderating soil temperature, and preventing soil erosion.

(kk)    “Native plant” means a plant indigenous to a specific area of consideration. For the purposes of these guidelines, the term shall refer to plants indigenous to the coastal ranges of central and northern California, and more specifically to such plants that are suited to the ecology of the present or historic natural community(ies) of the project’s vicinity.

(ll)    “New construction” means the construction of a new building or structure containing a landscape or other new land improvement, such as a park, playground, or greenbelt without an associated building.

(mm)    “Overhead sprinkler irrigation systems” means systems that deliver water through the air (e.g., spray heads and rotors).

(nn)    “Overspray” means the irrigation water which is delivered beyond the target area.

(oo)    “Pervious” means any surface or material that allows the passage of water through the material and into the underlying soil.

(pp)    “Plant factor” or “plant water use factor” is a factor, when multiplied by ETo, that estimates the amount of water needed by plants.

(qq)    “Precipitation rate” means the rate of application of water measured in inches per hour.

(rr)    “Project applicant” means the individual or entity submitting a landscape plan required under Section 16.16.030, in connection with a building permit application or design review from the local land use agency or requesting new, modified or increased water service from the water agency. A project applicant may be the property owner or his or her designee.

(ss)    “Rain sensor” or “rain-sensing shutoff device” means a component which automatically suspends an irrigation event when it rains.

(tt)    “Recreational area” means areas dedicated to active play such as parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and golf courses where turf provides a playing surface.

(uu)    “Reference evapotranspiration” or “ETo” means a standard measurement of environmental parameters which affect the water use of plants.

(vv)    “Rehabilitated landscape” means any project that is required to modify its existing landscape as a condition of a land use approval or a discretionary permit or any relandscaping project that requires a permit, plan check, design review, or requires a new or expanded water service application.

(ww)    “Runoff” means water which is not absorbed by the soil or landscape to which it is applied and flows from the landscape onto other areas.

(xx)    “Soil moisture-sensing device” or “soil moisture sensor” means a device that measures the amount of water in the soil. The device may also suspend or initiate an irrigation event.

(yy)    “Sprinkler head” means a device which delivers water through a nozzle.

(zz)    “Static water pressure” means the municipal water supply pressure when water is not flowing. It is measured at the nearest fire hydrant to the landscape site.

(aaa)    “Station” means an area served by one valve or by a set of valves that operate simultaneously.

(bbb)    “Swing joint” means an irrigation component that provides a flexible, leak-free connection between the emission device and lateral pipeline to allow movement in any direction and to prevent equipment damage from pedestrian traffic.

(ccc)    “Submeter” means a private metering device to measure water applied to the landscape that is installed after the primary utility water meter.

(ddd)    “Turf” means a ground cover surface of mowed grass that requires frequent watering during the growing season. Annual bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, red fescue, and tall fescue are cool-season grasses. Bermuda grass, kikuyu grass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, and buffalo grass are warm-season grasses.

(eee)    “Valve” means a device used to control the flow of water in the irrigation system.

(fff)    “Water feature” means a design element where open water performs an aesthetic or recreational function. Water features include ponds, lakes, waterfalls, fountains, artificial streams, spas, and swimming pools (where water is artificially supplied).

(ggg)    “WUCOLS” means the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species published by the University of California Cooperative Extension, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation, 2000, and any subsequent revisions.

(Ord. 2016-14 § 1, 2016: Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


The director shall be responsible for assuring that all applicants for new, increased, or modified water service shall comply with the standards set forth in this chapter wherever water service is provided by the city as a condition of receiving water service.

(a)    The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all of the following landscape projects:

(1)    New commercial, industrial, and public development projects requiring a building permit, land use approval/design review or requiring a new, expanded, or modified water service.

(2)    Existing commercial, industrial, and public development that is required to rehabilitate or modify their landscape as part of a land use approval/design review process shall also be required to comply with the provisions of this chapter in the relandscaped area.

(3)    Developer-installed landscaping. New single- and multiple-family residential development projects resulting in three or more dwelling units with a total irrigated landscape area which is installed by the developer equal to or greater than one thousand five hundred square feet.

(4)    Single-family and two-unit residences. New single-family and two-unit residential development projects on a parcel of land less than ten thousand square feet shall be required to meet only provisions listed in Section 16.16.070(j).

(5)    New single-family and two-unit residential development projects on a parcel of land equal to or greater than ten thousand square feet shall be required to meet all standards set forth below.

(6)    New recreation areas. New parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and golf courses are subject to all the provisions of this chapter except the turf area limits set forth in Section 16.16.070(c)(1).

(b)    The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to:

(1)    Remodels/additions to existing one- and two-unit homes.

(2)    Existing landscapes of less than one acre in size.

(3)    Ecological restoration projects that do not require a permanent irrigation system.

(4)    Community gardens.

(5)    Registered local, state, or federal historical sites where landscaping establishes an historical landscape style, as determined by a public board or commission responsible for architectural review or historic preservation.

(6)    Enclosed, private yards and patios in multifamily residential developments.

(c)    Preexisting landscapes over one acre in size. Existing large landscapes, including existing cemeteries, shall be subject only to the provisions for existing landscapes listed in Section 16.16.110.

(Ord. 2016-14 § 2, 2016: Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


No person shall install landscaping for a project subject to this chapter without the review and approval required by this chapter.

(a)    Design Review. For projects requiring design review or a discretionary land use approval, the applicant shall submit a landscape concept plan. The landscape concept plan shall include general representation of the site features, existing and proposed buildings, proposed planting areas, and the proposed method and type of irrigation.

(b)    Building Permit/Plan Check. A complete landscape plan must be submitted and found to satisfy the requirements of this chapter before the local agency can approve a building permit application, or the director can approve an application for water service and the installation of a new water meter, or authorize a change in water service. The city shall notify the applicant in writing if plans are found to be incomplete or inconsistent with the standards and indicate where such additions or revisions are necessary.

(c)    Plan Review Fee. A landscape plan review fee set by resolution of the city council shall accompany each such application to cover the city’s cost to review the landscape plan.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


Landscape plans for all projects, except a single-family or two-unit residence, shall be prepared by, and bear the signature of, a certified irrigation designer, a certified landscape irrigation auditor, a licensed landscape architect, a licensed landscape contractor, a licensed professional engineer, or any other person authorized by the state to do this work.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


Landscape plans shall consist of separate planting, irrigation, and grading plans, all drawn at the same size and scale, and shall accurately and clearly include the following information:

(a)    Project Information.

(1)    Project applicant/contact person;

(2)    Address;

(3)    Parcel number(s);

(4)    Total landscape area, in square feet;

(5)    Source and type of water supply (potable/recycled/other alternative, including graywater), including number and size of service connections.

(b)    Planting Plan. Planting plans shall identify and locate the following:

(1)    New and existing trees, shrubs, groundcover, and turf areas within the developed landscape area;

(2)    Planting legend indicating all plant species by botanical name and common name, spacing, and quantities of each type of plant by container size;

(3)    Water use classification (high, moderate, low, or very low) for each plant material specified, according to WUCOLS;

(4)    Each hydrozone (including high, medium, and low water uses) delineated and labeled, including the square footage for each area;

(5)    Property lines, streets, and street names;

(6)    Building locations, driveways, sidewalks, retaining walls, and other hardscape features;

(7)    Appropriate scale and north arrow;

(8)    Planting specifications and details.

(c)    Irrigation Plan. Irrigation plans shall identify and locate the following:

(1)    Irrigation point of connection (POC) to water system;

(2)    Static water pressure at POC;

(3)    Location and size of water meter(s);

(4)    Backflow prevention devices as may be required by the water supply agency;

(5)    Manual shut off valves;

(6)    Location, size, and type of all components of the irrigation system, including automatic controllers, main and lateral lines, valves, sprinkler heads and nozzles, riser protection equipment, soil moisture sensors, pressure regulator, drip and low volume irrigation equipment;

(7)    Flow rate (gallons per minute or gallons per hour), precipitation rate (inches per hour) and design operating pressure (psi) for each irrigation circuit;

(8)    Irrigation legend with the manufacturer name, model number, and general description for all specified equipment, separate symbols for all irrigation equipment with different spray patterns, spray radius, and precipitation rates;

(9)    Irrigation system specifications and details for assembly and installation;

(10)    Recommended irrigation schedule for each month, including number of irrigation days per week, number of start times (cycles) per day and minutes of run time per cycle required for each irrigation event designed to avoid runoff, and estimated amount of applied irrigation water expressed in gallons per month and gallons per year, for the established landscape;

(11)    The parameters used for programming the weather-based irrigation system controller schedule for the established landscape, including: soil type, slope, plant type, and type of irrigation nozzle/emitter used for each circuit;

(12)    Calculation of landscape water budget;

(13)    Stormwater management/rainwater collection features and facilities.

(d)    Grading Plan (not required when landscaped slopes on the site are less than ten percent).

(1)    Finish grades, contours, and spot elevations;

(2)    Grading volume (cubic yards);

(3)    Elevations of building floors, parking lots, and streets;

(4)    Location and height of retaining walls;

(5)    Drainage patterns and drainage control facilities.

(e)    Specifications.

(1)    In addition to planting, irrigation, and grading plans, any written specifications prepared for a project that are applicable to the landscape improvements shall be submitted for review.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


(a)    Dedicated Landscape Water Meter.

(1)    Separate water service meters shall be required for all new landscaping, except a single-family or two-unit residence, which equals or exceeds five thousand square feet in area, and for renovated landscape sites that result in expansion of the total landscaped area equal to or more than five thousand square feet.

(2)    For all new nonresidential landscapes not required to have a separate water service meter, a private irrigation submeter shall be installed between the point of connection on the domestic water service and first irrigation valve. The submeter shall register water use in cubic feet.

(b)    Landscape Water Budget.

(1)    The landscape water budget for new residential landscapes shall be no more than fifty-five percent of reference evapotranspiration per square foot of landscaped area, and the water budget for nonresidential landscapes shall be no more than forty-five percent of reference evapotranspiration per square foot of landscaped area. The landscape water budget shall be calculated using the equation below:

Landscape Water Budget = (0.55 or 0.45) (ETo) (0.00083) (LA), where:

Water Budget


Annual upper limit of irrigation water allowed (CCF/year)

0.55 or 0.45


ET adjustment factor



Reference evapotranspiration (inches per year)



Conversion factor to CCF



Landscape area (square feet)

(2)    New landscapes that include a recreation area or are irrigated with recycled water are allowed one hundred percent of reference evapotranspiration per square foot.

(3)    The estimated annual water use, calculated by adding the amount of water recommended in the irrigation schedule, or by another method approved by the water agency, shall not exceed the annual landscape water budget.

(4)    The landscape water budget assigned for a given irrigation account shall not be increased unless review of subsequent landscape plans has occurred and approval of said plans has been obtained by the land use or water agency.

(c)    Turf Limits.

(1)    The combined size of turf and areas devoted to high water use plants, decorative pools, fountains, water features and swimming pools for residential projects shall be limited to no more than twenty-five percent of the total developed landscape area. Turf is not permitted in new nonresidential landscape projects. These limits do not apply to recreation areas requiring large turf areas for their primary function. However, recreation areas shall be designed to limit turf in any portion of the landscaped area not essential for the operation of the recreational facility.

(2)    Except when required as a stormwater best management practice, turf and other high water use plants shall not be planted in the following conditions:

(a)    Planting areas less than ten feet wide in any direction;

(b)    On slopes greater than five percent;

(c)    In street medians, traffic islands, planter strips, and parking lot islands.

(3)    Turf varieties shall be water-conserving species, such as tall and hard fescues.

(d)    Landscape Design.

(1)    Except for areas designated for turf or high water use plants, all plants shall be composed of very low to moderate water use plants, as identified in Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS Guide) or other species, including native plants that are well adapted to the climate of the region, and require minimal water once established.

(2)    Plants having similar water requirements shall be grouped together in distinct hydrozones, and where irrigation is required, the distinct hydrozones shall be irrigated with separate valves.

(3)    Planting of trees and the protection and preservation of existing native species and natural areas is encouraged.

(4)    Water in decorative pools and fountains must be recirculated.

(e)    Irrigation Design.

(1)    All irrigation systems shall be designed to avoid runoff, overspray, low-head drainage and other similar conditions where water flows off site onto adjacent property, nonirrigated area, walks, roadways, or structures.

(2)    Areas less than ten feet wide must be irrigated with subsurface or low volume irrigation.

(3)    Point source irrigation is required where plant height maturity will affect the uniformity of an overhead system.

(4)    All overhead spray nozzles shall have a precipitation rate of no more than one inch per hour.

(5)    Overhead sprinkler systems shall not be permitted within twenty-four inches of any nonpermeable surface, including driveways and sidewalks. The setback area may be planted or unplanted. Allowable irrigation within the setback may include drip, subsurface, or other low volume, nonspray irrigation technology.

(6)    Plants that require different amounts of water shall be irrigated using separate irrigation circuits and valves.

(7)    Trees shall be watered using separate irrigation circuits.

(8)    Where available, recycled water shall be used to irrigate landscapes.

(f)    Irrigation Equipment.

(1)    A pressure regulator shall be installed if pressure at the water meter exceeds eighty psi. Additional pressure regulation devices are required if the water pressure exceeds the recommended pressure of the specified irrigation devices.

(2)    Weather-based or other sensor-based, self-adjusting irrigation controllers shall be required, where feasible.

(3)    Irrigation systems shall be equipped with rain-sensing devices to prevent irrigation during rainy weather.

(4)    Sprinkler heads shall have matched precipitation rates within each control circuit valve and shall be selected for proper coverage and precipitation rate, thereby minimizing overspray and runoff.

(5)    Anti-drain check valves shall be installed at strategic points to minimize or prevent low-head drainage.

(6)    Swing joints or other riser protection components are required on all risers located in high traffic areas.

(7)    The irrigation system shall provide for the installation of a manual shutoff valve installed as close as possible to the point of connection to minimize water loss in case of an emergency or routine repair. Additional manual shutoff valves shall be installed as necessary.

(8)    Flow sensors that detect and report high flow conditions due to broken pipes and/or broken sprinkler heads are required on all landscapes of five thousand square feet or larger.

(g)    Soil Management, Preparation, and Mulching.

(1)    Prior to planting of any materials, compacted soils shall be transformed into a friable condition. Soil shall be prepared for planting by ripping and incorporating an organic amendment at the rate of six cubic yards per one thousand square feet into the top six inches, or amended with organic material as recommended by a landscape architect or soil laboratory report.

(2)    All exposed soil surfaces of nonturf areas within the developed landscape area must be mulched with a minimum three-inch layer of organic material.

(3)    A laboratory analysis and soil management report shall be completed and submitted for projects over five thousand square feet of landscape area and for projects where significant mass grading is planned and the recommendations incorporated into the landscape plans. For landscapes with multiple landscape installations, a soil sampling rate of one in seven lots or approximately fifteen percent shall satisfy this requirement.

(h)    Stormwater Management.

(1)    All planting areas are required to have friable soil to maximize water retention and infiltration. Implementing stormwater best management practices to minimize runoff and increase on-site retention and infiltration is strongly encouraged.

(2)    Project applicants should refer to the local public works agency for information on any applicable stormwater requirements.

(i)    Alternative Water Sources.

(1)    Irrigating with alternative water sources such as recycled water, graywater, or rainwater is encouraged where available on site and permitted. All graywater systems shall conform to the California Plumbing Code (Title 24, Part 5, Chapter 16) and any applicable local ordinance standards. All recycled water irrigation systems shall be designed and operated in accordance with applicable local and state laws. The water budget for landscapes using only recycled water sources shall be one hundred percent.

(j)    Landscape Water Conservation Standards for Single-Family and Two-Unit Residences on Lots Less Than Ten Thousand Square Feet.

(1)    Install climate-adapted plants that require little or no summer water for seventy-five percent of the landscaped area (excluding area devoted to edible plants).

(2)    Apply a three-inch layer of mulch on all exposed soil surfaces.

(3)    Turf Limits.

(a)    The combined size of turf and areas devoted to high water use plants, decorative pools, fountains, water features and swimming pools for residential projects shall be limited to no more than twenty-five percent of the total developed landscape area.

(b)    Turf shall not be planted on slopes greater than five percent.

(c)    Turf is prohibited in areas less than ten feet wide in any direction.

(4)    Irrigation Equipment.

(a)    All overhead spray nozzles shall have a precipitation rate of no more than one inch per hour.

(b)    Areas less than ten feet in any direction shall be irrigated with low volume or subsurface irrigation that produces no runoff or overspray.

(c)    Overhead sprinkler systems shall not be permitted within twenty-four inches of any nonpermeable surface, including driveways and sidewalks. The setback area may be planted or unplanted. Allowable irrigation within the setback may include drip, subsurface, or other low volume, nonspray irrigation technology.

(Ord. 2016-14 § 3, 2016: Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


The project applicant, in lieu of the requirement that the portion of the landscape devoted to turf, high water use plants, water features, and swimming pools be limited to no more than twenty-five percent of the total landscape area, may elect to complete the water-efficient landscape equations and worksheets contained in Appendix B of the State of California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. In such cases, selected plant materials and overall landscape design shall not cause the estimated total water use to exceed the landscape water budget.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


The director shall have the right to enter upon any premises to make an inspection at any time before, during, and after irrigation system and landscape installation for the purpose of enforcing this chapter.

(a)    Upon installation and completion of the landscape, the city shall make a final inspection or require a certified landscape irrigation auditor assigned by the city to conduct a water audit at the applicant’s expense to verify that the landscape improvements were completed in accordance with approved plans. The final inspection or water audit shall verify that:

(1)    The installed irrigation system is in a leak-free condition.

(2)    The installed irrigation system is functioning as designed, specified, and approved.

(3)    The irrigation system does not cause water waste due to runoff, low head drainage, overspray or other similar condition where water flows onto adjacent property, nonirrigated areas, structures, walkways, roadways or other paved areas.

(4)    The person responsible for long-term landscape maintenance and irrigation management at the property has received the recommended irrigation schedule.

(b)    The project must pass inspection or audit before the building permit can be signed off and approved for occupancy.

(c)    Water Audit Required for Large Turf Areas. Properties with turf areas over five thousand square feet, upon completing the installation of the landscaping and irrigation system, shall be required to have an irrigation audit performed by a certified landscape irrigation auditor prior to the final field inspection.

(Ord. 2016-14 § 4, 2016: Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


(a)    Maintenance. A regular maintenance schedule shall be submitted to the applicant by the landscape designer or installer at the time of completion of the landscape installation and prior to final sign-off. Landscape shall be maintained in good working condition and properly adjusted to ensure water efficiency. Any broken or malfunctioning equipment, including but not limited to main and lateral lines or control valves shall be repaired promptly with identical equipment to maintain the original design integrity.

(b)    Irrigation System Inspections. Irrigation system shall be inspected regularly to correct misaligned, clogged or broken heads, missing heads and risers, stuck valves, and leaks. The irrigation meter shall be read periodically to check consumption and detect any leakage.

(c)    Watering Schedule. Watering schedules shall be adjusted periodically to reflect seasonal variations in plant water requirements. Whenever possible, irrigation management shall incorporate the use of real-time, ETo data from the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) or similar weather-based irrigation scheduling system.

(d)    Irrigation Operation. Irrigation shall be scheduled between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. when daily temperature and wind conditions are at a minimum.

(Ord. 2016-14 § 6, 2016: Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


The city will assign a landscape water budget to each existing landscape with a dedicated irrigation account over one acre in size based on seventy percent of reference evapotranspiration, or one hundred percent of reference evapotranspiration for recreation areas. When evaluation of these properties shows that annual water use exceeds the landscape water budget, the customer will be required to have a certified irrigation auditor perform a water audit and make recommendations as necessary to reduce water consumption consistent with the landscape water budget.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).

16.16.120 EXCEPTIONS.

The purpose of this chapter is to make optimum use of the water resources available to the city water department service area and to manage peak season water demands. As technology changes and more information is available regarding plant materials, irrigation equipment and techniques, and maintenance techniques that enhance water conservation, the director may allow the substitution of well-designed conservation alternatives or innovations which equally reduce water consumption and meet the intent of this chapter.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


In addition to any other remedy provided by the Santa Cruz Municipal Code, any provision of this chapter may be enforced by an administrative order issued pursuant to any one of the administrative processes set forth in Title 4 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code. The water commission shall serve as the administrative enforcement hearing officer for the purpose of considering appeals.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).


The city of Santa Cruz has limited water resources that are vulnerable to shortage in drought conditions. Residential, commercial and irrigation accounts in the water department service area are therefore subject to water restrictions or mandatory rationing during a declared water shortage emergency. Compliance with this chapter does not guarantee the survival of landscape plants or the availability of water for landscape irrigation based on this chapter. Irrigation shall be scheduled according to any water shortage regulations or restrictions in effect.

(Ord. 2010-11 § 2 (part), 2010).