As everyone is aware, this winter produced rivers of water in the sky. On April 7, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-40-17 ending the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Tuolumne where groundwater supplies are still at issue.
Permanent Changes.The Order leaves in place numerous conservation measures and additional measures are on the way as explained in “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.
Landscape Changes. Even though the drought is mostly over, elements of the emergency legislation will continue. For example, associations cannot prohibit low water-using plants or artificial turf in landscaping design. And, owners who installed water-efficient landscaping cannot be forced to return their landscaping to its original condition. That means owners who installed drip irrigation systems, built rain gardens, planted drought-tolerant plants, installed artificial turf, etc. get to keep what they installed. Associations cannot force owners to tear out everything and go back to grass lawns.
Hearings & Fines. Homeowners who let their grass die and did nothing to install drought-tolerant landscaping can now be required to water their lawns and replace dead turf. Owners who refuse can be called to disciplinary hearings where penalties may be imposed.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Although things are back to normal, I don’t recommend rushing out and fining everyone. That could trigger bad press and bad press generates bad legislation. Work with homeowners and give them time to get their landscaping back into shape. If you get a recalcitrant owner, create a paper trail. You may need to show a judge that you did everything possible to work with the owner before taking disciplinary and/or legal action.
Thank you to Nathan McGuire for providing background information for this article.