Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO)

What is the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO)?

MWELO is a statewide water efficiency law for new and renovated landscapes in California. It sets limits on high water use plants and irrigation equipment and incentivizes a holistic approach to landscaping that incorporates alternative water supplies like gray water, harvested rainwater, and recycled water.

Why is MWELO needed?

Traditionally designed landscapes incorporate plants and irrigation that waste water; contribute to polluted water runoff into streams, lakes and the ocean; overspray causing water damage to buildings, fences, and streets; and create a lot of plant and trimming green waste.

Water-efficient landscapes can be beautiful and functional. Research has shown that creating and maintaining landscapes that meet MWELO use 80% less water; require 60% less maintenance; produce 50% less yard waste.

Does this mean the landscapes need to be rocks and cactus?

No, the ordinance encourages the use of a variety of plants, including natives, climate-appropriate plants. Limited size lawns and non-adapted plants can also be planted.

Who needs to comply?

Follow the Compliance Pathway Flowchart (PDF) for information about projects that need to comply.

Any single-family or multi-family residential, public, institutional, or commercial project that requires a permit, plan review, or check from the local review agency AND meets one of these size thresholds needs to comply:

  • New construction project with a total landscape area* greater than 500 sq. ft.
  • Rehabilitation of existing landscape with a total landscape area* greater than 2,500 sq.ft.

* Total landscape area includes swimming pools, fountains, and other water features.

What is the Submittal, review, and approval process?

Projects that meet the criteria above must comply with the  Town’s MWELO ordinance (which adopts the California MWELO ordinance) and  Bay-Friendly Basic Landscape Checklist (PDF). In order to achieve this, the following steps must be completed:

Submitting your application

Performance Landscape Projects  
Prior to construction, new construction projects 500 sq. ft. or larger or rehabilitated landscapes 2,500 sq. ft. or larger should submit: 

Prescriptive Landscape Projects
Prior to construction, rehabilitated projects between 500 sq. ft. and 2,500 sq. ft. should submit:

Constructing your project

After the project is approved, construct the landscape according to the approved plans and with the appropriate inspections noted for irrigation and landscape installations.

Completing your project

Performance Landscape Projects 

Once the project is completed, submit the following documents to the Town

Prescriptive Landscape Projects

Once the project is completed, submit the following documents to the Town