Gatto’s Bill to Protect Water-Conscious Residents from Government Fines Now Law

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Today, Governor Brown signed AB 1164, legislation that will prohibit local governments from banning water-conscious landscaping at private residences while preserving the ability of cities and counties to set aesthetic and environmental standards.  As California enters its fourth consecutive drought year, Assemblyman Gatto wants to protect homeowners who install water-efficient landscaping, and encourage others looking reduce urban water use to do the same.

In some California cities, including Glendale, local ordinances limiting the installation of drought-tolerant landscaping prevent homeowners from doing their part to save water during the drought.  When Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), the principal co-author of last year’s California Water Bond and numerous other water-efficiency bills, heard from constituents that cities in his district were fining residents for replacing water-intensive lawns with realistic looking synthetic grass, he amended AB 1164 to provide relief to residents.

“Californians are doing their best to protect our state’s precious water resources when they spend their own hard-earned money to invest in water-efficient technologies,” said Gatto.  “Intruding on a homeowner’s private property and fining them for doing the right thing sends the wrong message and is counterproductive to our water-saving efforts.”

Homeowners attempting to install drought-tolerant landscaping have come up against a number of barriers throughout the state, from bans on artificial turf to requirements that a landscape be completely covered in live-plant material.  The installation of drought tolerant landscaping necessitates the use of a variety of materials including mulch, hardscape, and live plants and this bill seeks to equip homeowners with as many tools as possible to save water. Additionally, AB 1164 recognizes and affirms the ability of cities and counties to set appropriate standards for the use of drought-tolerant landscaping, synthetic grass, or artificial turf, including water-permeability requirements and limitations on how much land may be covered by certain types of materials.

AB 1164 is Assemblyman Gatto’s latest in a years-long series of bills aimed at water conservation.  Last year, he authored AB 2282, which required California to adopt building standards for recycled water in newly constructed commercial and residential buildings.  That same year, Gatto carried AB 2636, a measure that created the CalConserve program, a $10 million revolving-loan program to finance water-efficiency projects for home owners and businesses.  Other water-efficiency legislation by Gatto includes AB 2230 (2012), which requires all new carwashes to use 60% recycled water, and AB 849 (2011), which fostered the use of graywater technology. Both bills are considered pioneering legislation drafted with forethought and prior to the drought.

“AB 1164 empowers Californians to conserve water,” explained Gatto.  “With 60% of residential water going to lawns and other outdoor uses, it’s time for government to stop being part of the problem.  This legislation will allow water-conscious residents to diversify their water-saving efforts.”

The legislation will take effect immediately.

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