City works on water law

CITY HALL — A new state law that mandates all future landscaping to meet complicated water-efficiency standards has left city planners scrambling to implement more streamlined regulations.

The California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, which went into effect this year, aims to decrease water-hungry landscaping and irrigation runoff. The regulations apply to public and private development of at least 2,500 square feet and residential projects of at least 5,000 square feet.

State officials have said the new regulations are important to address the state's growing water shortage.

“In California's warm, dry climate, more than half of urban water supplies may be used for landscape irrigation,” state Water Resources Director Lester Snow said in a letter to local governments. “Ensuring efficient landscapes in new developments and reducing water waste in existing landscapes are among the most cost-effective ways to stretch our limited water supplies and ensure that we continue to have water we need.”

But city officials say the state regulations will be burdensome, expensive and difficult to enforce, so they plan to craft streamlined regulations to implement locally — a process the City Council will be asked to authorize at tonight's meeting.

“We think in the end it wants us to save water, but it has an unusually complicated way of getting there,” said Community Planning Director Hassan Haghani. “So we think we can write an ordinance that meets the same intent without going the same direction.”

Under state regulations, applicants must provide lengthy documentation, including irrigation, grading and landscape design plans and a soil report, which would require special testing.

City planner Chris Baghdikian, who has been studying the state ordinance, said the regulations would affect a relatively small group of applicants because of the size requirements.

Until a local ordinance is approved, the state regulations will be enforced, officials said.

“Everyone is scratching their heads,” Haghani said. “Some of the procedures are just too cumbersome and expensive.”

Glendale would join many agencies across the state in opting out of the state system and drafting their own. So far, 29 cities and counties have submitted ordinances, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

In order to receive state approval, city officials must prove local regulations are as effective.

Haghani added that much of the state requirements are already being met by current city restrictions, which mandate that any new landscaping use drought-tolerant species.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World