Ordinances and Rules for Implementing
As with many types of water saving equipment, many utilities have found that
rules or ordinances are effective means of increasing water efficiency standard.
This directive approach assures the utility that all new customers are using
a certain minimum approach which ensures that water is used effectively. Conservation
rules or ordinances for new customers are typically lass expensive to implement
than incentive or education programs, but can and often are implemented in
concert with incentive or education programs. Some education always needs to
be a part of any ordinance process, as the affected parties must be informed
about the new rules, the expectations for compliance, and enforcement procedures.
Irrigation System Design & Installation
The State of Texas Licensed Irrigator rules give utilities concerned with
irrigation system design an excellent starting point in developing a good
set of utility service rules or ordinance. At a minimum, irrigation systems
in Texas should be designed by a licensed irrigator, and local cities may
enforce this by passing ordinances requiring new connections to show a
plan sealed by a licensed irrigators, irrigation. This is enforceable at
the time that a customer applies for a certificate of occupancy, or a meter
connection fee in association with the backflow prevention valve required
for irrigation systems by sate health code.
Irrigation system standards which have been passed by rule or ordinance
include requirements for installation of rain sensors or soil moisture sensors,
use of ET controllers, and/or location of irrigation heads in relationship
to hardscapes (distance from curb or walls).
By rule, irrigation standards have also been implemented directly related
to the size of median strips and buffers [Denver Water].
Cities may wish to take further steps to require irrigation systems to have
certain types of heads based upon total area irrigated, require specific
hydrozoning measures, limit the placement of irrigation heads near curbs
and other hardscape, require rain sensors, SWAT irrigation controllers, or
eliminate water wasting irrigation systems in small medians, buffer zones
and entrances altogether. Appendix A.1 includes landscape and irrigation
standards, published by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) which have
been used as templates for city ordinances and by homeowners associations
for deed restrictions and covenants. The State of California designed a model
landscaping ordinance structure for use by municipalities.
A sample landscape design checklist produced by the City of Colorado Springs
can help utilities work with city planners to ensure that proper principles
of hydrozoning and irrigation design are followed.
Concerns about the ability to enforce irrigation standards on the residential
sector, with new construction including everything from single homes to planned
unit developments, leads some utilities to focus on commercial customers.
Municipalities with ordinance-making powers should consider adopting ordinances
that require all new apartment complexes and commercial buildings to install
a water conserving landscape. This can often be accomplished by amending
an existing commercial landscape ordinance.
The utility should ensure that landscape irrigation system specifications
are coordinated with local building codes and zoning ordinances. A careful
review of both of these sections of local government code is necessary to
determine if preexisting requirements may be inconsistent with desired water
conservation elements. Often introducing water-conserving elements into local
code by amendment involves removing or revising existing language. If changes
are desired to sections of the code involving zoning, it is important to
plan for appropriate review and approval by planning or zoning boards and/or
commissions. Utility staff must be prepared to present the information about
proposed changes and potential water savings to audiences which are not familiar
with conservation or water utility issues. Existing zoning and building code
also may be organized in a way that requires major changes to a number of
different sections of the code. Working with city attorneys, the water utility
staff should keep in mind that careful review is necessary to prevent a result
which has contradictory or conflicting requirements between different sections
of code. Sufficient time and background information should be allowed as
part of an ordinance process.
It is a very good idea to present proposals to local construction, landscape,
and development representatives so that they can understand the reasons for
and the extent of each ordinance proposal. These public involvement and input
efforts in developing new rules can both help the utility to make minor modifications
which address concerns of the affected parties, and also avoid opposition
which may stem from customers who misunderstand the provisions or potential
impact of proposed provisions.
Ordinance or rulemaking processes can be used both for equipment standards
and for behavior changes. Although most often used during drought, irrigation
scheduling ordinances can be used in wet years as well as dry to manage water
lost to evaporation by requiring irrigation systems to be run at night or
early in the morning,
customers who allow their irrigation system to water the street, and/or setting
irrigation days by street address to help reduce peak demand on the system
(if only ½ or
less of customers can water on a given day, the overall peak pumping volume
Compliance Activities: Education & Enforcement
Water conservation staff can be involved in ensuring compliance with ordinances,
as they are in a number of Texas cities (Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio).
However, for provisions which involve plan reviews the utility may need
to work directly with city planners. For provisions which require inspections
at the time of construction, the utility may need to work with plumbing
or building inspectors.
These are important considerations in choosing ordinance provisions. The
availability of staff to ensure compliance with provisions is crucial, as
is the education of the staff. Utility conservation staff or outside experts
must be available to educate the staff that will be directly responsible
for reviewing plans, or performing inspections on irrigation systems. Since
backflow prevention devices are required for installation of automatic irrigation
systems, backflow device inspectors are potential compliance officers for
irrigation system design and installation ordinances - but only if they are
properly trained and have the funding for the additional inspection activity.
has used its ordinance powers to ensure that annual checkups of irrigation
systems for large turf areas, are required. These can be performed
by licensed irrigators, an employee, a volunteer (for schools or other nonprofits)
or the owner of the property.
Outdoor irrigation when regulated by time-of-day or day-of-week is often
defined as a water waste, and enforcement is handled as part of the city
code for misdemeanor violations of ordinance. The City of El Paso uses peace
officers to enforce time of day and day of week irrigation ordinances during
times of drought and non-drought periods as well. Notices of violations (NOV)
are often preceded by warnings, and the number of warnings prior to enforcement
activity varies around the country. In order to process potential violations
observed by customers, utilities with time-of-day or day-of-week programs
operate a “Hotline” telephone number, or website form
which needs to be publicized if the public is to be aware and use the service.
When a call or web alert is received, the utility can issue a work order
to its enforcement personnel who can then proceed to the site and issue a
warning or NOV as deemed by the situation.
At each stage of an ordinance process, from drafting, through passage
and during enforcement, education is necessary. In order to gain public
support for the ordinances, the public needs to understand the importance
of water conservation, to obtain rules that are enforceable and supported
by the affected customers, they must feel they are fair, and that they
are able to and understand how to comply. In order to ensure that enforcement
of the rules is possible, the general public needs to know how to notify
the utility about alleged violations, and the enforcement measures, whether
they include warnings, and how large a fine is assessed, need to be perceived