California extends ban on watering non-functional turf with drinking water

June 5, 2023
In effect since June 22, the ban on using drinking water for non-functional turf in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas has been extended for an additional year.

California’s State Water Resources Control Board announced that it is extending an emergency regulation that bans using drinking water for watering decorative grass (non-functional turf) in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas throughout the state.

The board stated that its extension of the regulation signals a need for Californians to continue using water wisely. Although conditions have improved, they have not abated the severe drought conditions that remain in some parts of the state, including those with depleted groundwater basins.

The regulation bans watering non-functional turf, which generally is mowed grass that is not used for recreational or other community activities, at commercial, industrial and institutional properties. This applies to areas like grass in front of or next to large commercial buildings, and some common areas managed by homeowners’ associations.

The ban makes exceptions to grass used for community activities such as recreation, as well as residential lawns or trees. The state encourages people to continue watering trees for their environmental benefits.

The ban also does not prohibit using recycled water for irrigating non-functional turf.

“We all have a shared responsibility to continue to limit non-essential outdoor water use while the state grapples with extreme weather and plans for possible dry conditions this summer and into the next wet season,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “This readopted regulation will help us continue to protect California’s water resources in hotter, drier conditions.”

The regulation was initially adopted by the board in May 2022 and went into effect in June 2022. Once approved by the Office of Administrative Law and filed with the Secretary of State, the extension of the ban will go into effect for one additional year. It would have expired in June 2023, if not readopted.

With this readoption, there are two State Water Board water conservation emergency regulations in place. The other is an emergency regulation prohibiting wasteful water uses. That regulation, readopted in December 2022 and still in effect, prohibits outdoor watering causing substantial water to run onto sidewalks and other areas, and the use of potable water for washing hard surfaces like driveways or sidewalks. Violations of these prohibitions or of the newly extended non-functional turf watering ban are considered infractions.

Agencies already authorized to enforce the existing water regulations, like water suppliers and local governments, still are empowered to address violations of the non- functional turf watering regulation. In some areas, similar prohibitions are required by local plans or ordinances.