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Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

In 2006, California State Assembly Bill 1881 (AB 1881) was enacted, requiring all local jurisdictions to adopt water efficient landscape regulations for new development projects. The requirements set forth under AB 1881 are commonly referred to as the “State Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance”, or “MWELO”, and they became effective on January 1, 2010. Local ordinances adopted to implement the State’s requirements are known as “WELOs” (“water-efficient landscaping ordinances”). In response to the passage of AB 1881, the water contractors receiving water through the Sonoma County Water Agency, including the City of Sonoma, met as a group to develop similar ordinances that were adopted by the individual governing bodies. In the case of Sonoma, this occurred on October 20, 2010, when the City Council of Sonoma adopted ordinance 05-2010, which represents the City’s current water-efficient landscaping requirements. These are set forth in Chapter 14.32 of the Municipal Code (“Water-Efficient Landscaping”).

In December 2015, the State updated the “State Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance” and is now requiring local agencies to either implement the MWELO provisions as written or modify the locally adopted WELO to comply with the new regulations. Note: Local ordinances adopted to implement the State’s requirements are known as “WELOs” (“water-efficient landscaping ordinances”). Under the law, local ordinances must be at least as effective as the MWELO in conserving water. The City of Sonoma has elected to update its WELO, rewriting the entire ordinance to ensure compliance with State law, while tailoring it to the City’s development review process.

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