Water regulations are planned

Costa Mesa city staff is working on an ordinance that will require multi-family residences and businesses to conserve water.

The ordinance will require new landscaping installations or rehabilitation projects of 2,500 square feet or greater to be water wise, which includes picking drought-tolerant plants and installing irrigation systems that use less water, said Minoo Ashabi, Costa Mesa senior planner.

Assembly Bill 1881 was adopted by the state in 2006 to encourage water conservation, and now all California cities must abide the new requirement beginning Jan. 1.

“This is intended to encourage drought-tolerant plants in the most conservative way for water conservation,” she said.

The goal is to reduce water usage from 80% to 70%, Ashabi said.

The Orange County division of the League of California Cities took over the state ordinance and simplified it for the county’s cities.

The league’s model customized the guidelines of the ordinance with some flexibility for each city to either adopt it as is or modify it to fit with their jurisdictions, said Lacy Kelly, executive director of the Orange County division of the league.

Most cities in the county are moving toward adopting the league’s model, including includes Costa Mesa, Kelly said. The ordinance for Costa Mesa will affect multiple-family residential, commercial and industrial areas.

Single-family residential areas will be exempt because their landscaping area is less than 2,500 square feet, Ashabi said.

The new ordinance will not cause dramatic changes to residents and water users in the city. Most, if not all, businesses and residents already abide by some regulations related to water conservation.

Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) and Mesa Consolidated Water District provide water for Costa Mesa. Mesa water has in place a water conservation ordinance. IRWD has a rate system where users are billed based on their water usage, and the district’s requirements meet the guidelines for water conservation that were adopted by the Metropolitan Water District, said Shannon Reed, IRWD public information officer.

“Most of the business community is aware of this coming up, but this might be new for residents. People might not be aware of it when it applies to the rehabilitation part,” Ashabi said.

The Costa Mesa ordinance will be introduced to the city Planning Commission on Dec. 14, then will go to the council for approval by January, Ashabi said.

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