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Texas AgriLife Extension Service Texas Water Development Board Texas Nursery and Landscape Association Texas AgriLife Extension Service Texas AgriLife Extension Service
A supplement to the Best Management Practices Manual produced by the Texas Water Conservation Task Force.

BMP Rules

Ordinances and Rules for Implementing Irrigation BMP
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.
model landscaping ordinance for California
A sample landscape design checklist produced by the City of Colorado Springs Colorado
sample landscape design for 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 is reduced).

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.
San Antonio Water System
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
El Paso water schedule
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 as fair. 

"Landscape planning and design is essential to water use efficiency..."

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