Proposed Landscape Irrigation Water Efficiency Requirements
As you are well aware, we are in a fourth straight year of drought and our state’s current water shortage is unprecedented. Governor Brown reiterated that we are in a State of Emergency in January, and called upon all Californians to reduce urban water use by 25 percent. It is clear that we cannot treat water as an endless resource, and we must change the way we as a state approach outdoor landscaping.
New commercial and residential buildings must now include water-efficient landscaping. Water limitations are in place for landscape irrigation outside of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Schools must also do their part to conserve.
To help schools and community colleges respond to the drought challenges and the Governor’s call to action, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) recently proposed water efficiency requirements for irrigated landscape areas. The requirements, which apply to all new construction and building additions of more than 1,000 square feet, will be considered on an emergency basis at the July 21, 2015 Building Standards Commission meeting. If approved, we anticipate an effective date of October 1, 2015. Read more in our fact sheet and in the text of the proposed California Administrative Code changes, and the proposed California Green Building Standards Code changes.
By engaging stakeholders throughout the process, DSA incorporated valuable feedback. DSA’s original proposal included landscape rehabilitation requirements for school modernization projects, but after considering stakeholder feedback, we changed the requirements to apply only to new construction and additions. DSA also originally considered requiring an area of landscape rehabilitation equal to 100 percent of the new building’s footprint. Instead, we are proposing an area of landscape rehabilitation equal to 75 percent of the new building’s footprint.
We recognize that landscape areas often serve important functions in schools, and the proposed regulations seek to balance the maintenance of these areas with our significant need to conserve water. The regulations allow a higher level of water use for school landscape areas than that permitted for commercial and residential landscape areas. In addition, landscape areas dedicated to specific educational or recreational purposes, such as vegetable gardens and playing fields, and areas using recycled water, are allowed additional water to maintain their functionality.
We designed the regulations to allow flexibility for school districts to meet the new statewide requirements in the ways that best suit their local-level needs. Although all new campuses and all new or rehabilitated landscaping must comply with the requirements, schools have district-wide options to perform required landscape irrigation work on a different campus, if desired. School districts can even receive credit toward landscape requirements associated with future construction projects if they choose to complete a stand-alone landscape project now. Additionally, no additional landscape rehabilitation is required for projects constructing a new building on a previously landscaped area, since the project already reduces water consumption.
DSA is committed to developing a clear, streamlined process to assist schools and community colleges to comply with the new requirements. DSA’s review fee for these requirements will be fixed at $500, and we will work with districts to ensure project schedules are not adversely affected. Schools can demonstrate compliance with the self-certification of a design professional at the beginning and end of a project. Landscaping requirements will not preclude DSA certification of construction projects. If all landscape areas on a construction campus already comply with the irrigation requirements, the school district is not obligated to bring other district landscape areas into compliance.
As a result of complying with the regulations, school districts will achieve cost savings over time by reducing the amount of water used for irrigation. In addition, the regulations will help school districts meet requirements of their local water districts and the Governor’s Executive Order. The changes also provide an opportunity for school districts to set the example for water conservation among their students and communities. But most importantly, making these changes conserves a valuable resource in our state’s time of need.
DSA will publish information and resources to provide technical assistance for school districts. School districts are encouraged to contact their local water districts for information on potential funding programs to assist in water conservation efforts.
We recognize that the changes in these regulations represent only a few ways that school districts can reduce water consumption. We will continue to share DSA resources such as our recent water conservation infographic, and outside resources such as www.SaveOurWater.com and the California Department of Education’s Drought Response Best Practices and Resources. In the near future, DSA also plans to develop an online forum for school districts to collaborate and share innovative ideas and best practices for conservation.
I applaud your dedication and ongoing efforts to conserve water. Together, we will keep making a difference.
Chester A. Widom, FAIA