The State of California defines non-functional turf as “ground cover surface of mowed grass that is ornamental and not otherwise used for human recreation purposes.” Non-functional turf does not include school fields, sports fields, and areas regularly used for civic or community events. In other words, if the turf serves no purpose other than to look nice, it is considered non-functional.
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Water Years 2020, 2021, and 2022 were critically dry years for the Tri-City area, but Water Year 2023 saw extreme local and statewide precipitation. As a result, ACWD’s water supplies have improved and the groundwater basin has returned to healthy levels. As we recover from drought, we are mindful of the role climate change has played in this unprecedented weather and our need to adapt to a new climate future, one in which California will experience more frequent and potentially more severe droughts. To do that, we need to make strategic water resources investments while also improving water use efficiency. Together we must be prepared and more drought-ready.
California is no stranger to drought, but 2013-2014 and 2020-2022 are two of California’s driest periods in 150 years. More significantly, these recent dry years exhibit characteristics of changed precipitation patterns that are anticipated to occur with climate change – notably a shorter rainy season and a longer dry season. ACWD is working with water resources managers throughout the state to study and prepare for climate change and develop adaption plans for the new weather patterns; the challenges of today’s drought form a learning opportunity for better management tomorrow – a silver lining!
After several critically dry years, it is important to conserve now to save water for the future. However, it is important to care for trees so that they survive through the drought and beyond due to the multiple benefits they provide communities, such as improved air quality.
Customers are encouraged to prioritize water for trees. Watering trees gradually but deeply will ensure they survive. Trees are most efficiently watered by hand or using a bubbler or drip irrigation system, and should be on a separate valve than the surrounding vegetation, especially if planted in a lawn area. The frequency and amount of water needed will depend on whether the tree is young and needs to be established or if it is mature, and whether it is a low, medium, or high water use species. Please add a layer of mulch around the root zone of the tree carefully avoiding the base of the trunk to lower soil temperatures and reduce the amount of water that evaporates.
Resources with specific tips on how to care for and water your tree efficiently:
Thank you for your efforts to conserve! Although ACWD is no longer experiencing a water shortage emergency, with California’s climate and increasing effects of climate change, every bit of conservation helps, so please continue to reduce. There are simple changes that all Californians can do to save water and ACWD offers a comprehensive suite of water use efficiency measures, such as rebates, technical assistance, and education programs to help. Each one of us can make a difference – working together as one community to make conservation a way of life in California.
ACWD's water shortage emergency has been lifted and water use restrictions are no longer in effect.
ACWD prohibits irrigation runoff so we recommend using a cycle and soak method when irrigating to avoid runoff. A cycle and soak method uses shorter, more frequent cycles of irrigation in one day versus one long runtime.
To determine the time you should water for a cycle and soak method, run your irrigation system until you start to see signs of runoff (e.g. water overflowing from landscape onto sidewalk). Then, turn off your irrigation and let the landscape soak for 1 hour and repeat the process 2-3 times. Note the time it takes to begin seeing runoff – anything applied beyond this time during a single watering event is wasted.
If you witness water waste, you can report it to ACWD by completing our Water Waste Reporting Form at acwd.org/reportwaste or by calling our Water Use Efficiency team at 510.668.4218. For water emergencies, such as a broken main or fire hydrant, please contact our 24-hour emergency hotline at 510.668.6500.
On June 10, 2022, the State of California’s emergency regulation for urban water conservation prohibiting irrigation of non-functional turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties went into effect and was readopted for another year on June 5, 2023. This regulation also prohibits irrigation of non-functional turf in common areas of Homeowners Associations (HOAs). It does not apply to residential properties. Check out the non-functional turf fact sheet or visit the State Water Resources Control Board website for more information, including a list of frequently asked questions. Become future-ready and remove grass and non-functional turf now by taking advantage of ACWD’s Lawn Be Gone Rebate Program. Learn more.
Non-functional turf refers to areas of turf that are solely ornamental and not used for human recreation purposes. In other words, if the turf serves no purpose other than to look nice, it is considered non-functional. Example of functional turf include sports fields, school fields, and areas regularly used for civic or community events. Examples of non-functional turf may include sidewalk strips or medians in parking lots that are solely for decoration. Properties should review the areas of turf they maintain and determine whether it is functional or not and provide ACWD information regarding which areas are functional at acwd.org/reportturf.
Areas of turf are exempt if:
The following indoor and outdoor water conservation measures can help reduce water use.
For an extensive list of water efficient tips and techniques for different types of landscape, check out ACWD’s Survival Tips for Your Landscape resource. See below for some key recommendations:
A well-maintained lawn can withstand a drought year with reduced watering so we ask customers to adjust irrigation schedules to reduce their water use, while helping their lawn establish a stronger root system. Lawns may look stressed with areas of browning, but should remain alive and return when we receive sufficient rainfall and/or restrictions are lifted.
Conduct irrigation system checks and repair any leaks or breaks to ensure that your irrigation system is working efficiently. A functioning irrigation system can help your landscape survive during extended dry periods and drought. Better yet, to avoid having your landscape stress and dry out, convert lawns to drought-tolerant landscape. ACWD offers resources and a rebate to help you do so. For more information visit acwd.org/rebates.
ACWD is required by law to conduct a Water Supply Assessment for new developments to ensure sufficient supply. In addition, ACWD’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan includes the option to place a moratorium on new development, new water service connections, and expanded services in the case of an extremely critical shortage, unless they are required for health and safety. To date, ACWD has not determined a need to temporarily suspend new water service connections.
For all program information, please visit ACWD’s rebates page.
As we recover from drought, we are mindful of the role climate change has played in these unprecedented periods of drought and our need to adapt to a new climate future, one in which California will experience more frequent and potentially more severe droughts. One of the first restrictions that are adopted during periods of drought are restrictions on outdoor irrigation (e.g. number of days per week irrigation is allowed for functional lawns). You can prepare your landscape and be drought-ready by converting lawns to water-efficient landscape.
ACWD encourages customers to install water-efficient landscapes and provides a rebate to customers that replace existing lawns with this type of landscape. There are many benefits to installing water-efficient landscape rather than a new lawn:
If you are an HOA or a commercial, industrial, or institutional customer please see the FAQ: “What is the ban on non-functional turf irrigation for commercial, industrial, and institutional customers adopted by the State of California?”
While artificial turf requires less water than a natural turf lawn, there are healthier and more ecologically sound alternatives. In addition to saving water, low water use plants and permeable landscape material meet additional sustainability goals that artificial turf and concrete do not:
1) Artificial turf and concrete are not a living landscape and do not increase biodiversity of plant, animal, and insect populations.
2) Artificial turf has potential environmental concerns. It is synthetic material that will have to be replaced in 10-20 years due to wear and tear, so it will eventually end up in a landfill.
3) Artificial turf is not water free. It needs to be cleaned with water and potentially with chemicals. This raises the concern of chemical pollutants from the cleaning materials, and potentially from the artificial turf itself, polluting surface water and groundwater in the runoff.
4) Artificial turf and concrete can get significantly hotter than surrounding air temperatures and contribute to the heat island effect by increasing air temperatures in urban settings.
Please visit ACWD’s Water Use Efficiency Efforts webpage to learn more about how ACWD is leading the way in using water wisely.
To learn more about the main cleaning program, please visit: www.acwd.org/maincleaning.
To learn more about the main cleaning program, please visit: www.acwd.org/maincleaning.
The State of California currently does not offer a lawn removal rebate program. Customers are encouraged to take advantage of the water-efficient landscape rebate program that ACWD offers so that they can save water and money by replacing their water thirsty lawn with a water-efficient landscape. Learn more about ACWD’s rebate program.
ACWD's Board approved an increase in the rebate amount for the Lawn Be Gone (LBG) rebate from $1/square foot to $2/square foot on June 10, 2021. ACWD is always evaluating enhancements to its water conservation programs to better serve customers in their efforts to conserve water. This may include changes to rebate amounts; however, our Board must first approve this kind of change. Currently, the rebate amount is set at $2/square foot of lawn removed and will remain so for the time being.
ACWD currently offers a rebate for replacing lawns with water-efficient landscape. Lawns tend to be the highest water use landscape, so replacing your lawn with water-efficient landscape will ensure you maximize your water savings.
The customer must have stopped the wasteful use of water and have paid all charges owed to the District under the Ordinance before the District will restore full water service. When water service is returned, the customer will be charged applicable fees established in the District’s Rate and Fee Schedule. For more questions regarding the rate and fee schedule, contact customer service at (510) 668 – 4200.
You can also review the document here.