Water efficient landscaping to become the new norm

For anyone planning or building a new parking lot or home, water efficient landscaping is now part of the Plumas County Code, among other considerations.

This does not apply to parking lots and home landscaping built before this year. It does apply to parking lots with five or more parking spaces, according to Tim Evans, associate planner with the Plumas County Planning Department.

Evans was before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and again Tuesday, Nov. 5, to explain a proposed ordinance as drafted by the planning commission.

The ordinance would amend Title 9 of the planning and zoning code by adding Article 42 to Chapter 2 of Title 9. The proposal is in keeping with the state’s water efficient landscape ordinance, according to Evans.


Supervisors were charged with holding a public hearing for the proposed ordinance and to waive the first reading.

Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the ordinance changes.

Evans explained that in 2015, then Gov. Brown signed an executive order directing the California Department of Water Resources to update the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO).

As it stood, the rules went into effect in Plumas County by default, Evans explained. The county had taken no action on the rules, but it wasn’t too late for supervisors to approve the ordinance amendment.

“The original version of MWELO was created and implemented as a result of Assembly Bill 325 signed in 1990,” Evans explained in background material. This created the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act.

To comply with the updated requirements, the local agency, in this case the planning commission, could adopt a draft proposal, other options or allow it to go into effect by default.


The proposal was originally discussed by the planning commission in August and September of 2018, according to Evans. No changes were recommended at that time.

A public hearing was planned for October 2018, but there wasn’t a quorum and the meeting was pushed to November, Evans explained. “No comments were presented during either public hearing in regards to the proposed water efficient landscape ordinance,” he said.

The ordinance applies to landscape projects requiring a building or special use permit in the unincorporated (anywhere but Portola) area of Plumas County.

The zones it involves are Single Family Residential (2-R, 3-R, 7-R), Multiple-Family Residential (M-R), Suburban (S-1), Secondary Suburban (S-3), Rural (R-10), Rural (R-20), Core Commercial (C-1), Periphery Commercial (C-2), Convenience Commercial (C-3), Recreation commercial (R-C), Heavy Industrial (I-1), Light Industrial (I-R), Prime Recreation (Rec-P), Recreation (Rec-1, Rec-3, Rec-10, Rec-20), Recreation Open Space (Rec-OS), Agricultural Preserve (AP), General Agriculture (GA), Timberland Production (TPZ), Open Space (OS) and Lake (L) zones.


Although the ordinance applies to landscape projects requiring a building permit or special use permit, a building permit is not a requirement for landscaping projects in Plumas County.

The changes to the ordinance apply to new landscapes that are equal to or greater than 500 sq. ft., rehabilitated landscapes that are equal to or greater than 2,500 sq. ft., existing landscapes, cemeteries including new and/or rehabilitated, landscapes that are new or rehabilitated with an aggregate area of 500 sq. ft. to 2,500 sq. ft. and have the option to comply with the requirements of the ordinance or the prescriptive requirement in the ordinance, and landscapes using gray water (usually from a washing machine) or rainwater.

There are four exemptions in the section. They include anything registered to local, state or federal historical sites, ecological restorations not requiring a permanent irrigation system, and gardens or plant collections as part of botanical and arboretums open to the public.


For further information on water efficient landscaping contact the Plumas County Planning Department at 283-7011.