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Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

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The State’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) was updated on July 15, 2015. The purpose of the MWELO is to promote the values and benefits of landscaping practices that integrate conservation and efficient use of water. The MWELO establishes a structure for planning, designing, installing, maintaining and managing water efficient landscapes in new construction and rehabilitated projects.  You can find more information on the State’s current water efficient landscape efforts on the Department of Water Resources’ website.

Is My Project Subject to MWELO?

MWELO requirements apply to any landscaping project greater than 500 square feet that requires a permit, plan check or design review. 

Landscape area means all the planting areas, turf areas, and water features in a landscape design plan. The landscape area does not include footprints of buildings or structures, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, decks, patios, gravel or stone walks, other pervious or non-pervious hardscapes, and other non-irrigated areas designated for non-development (e.g., open spaces and existing native vegetation).

State Save Our Water – Measuring Project Area Square Footage Handout

Typical permits that would trigger MWELO requirements include a building permit for sprinkler installation, a design review application for a building addition, or a building permit to construct a swimming pool. 

Streamlined “Prescriptive Compliance Approach” (Projects less than 2,500 sq. ft.)

For new and rehabilitated landscapes subject to MWELO and less than 2,500 sq. ft., the streamlined Prescriptive Compliance Approach may be used. The Prescriptive Compliance Approach is a checklist of landscape standards that are met and documented on the Landscape Plan. These standards include incorporating compost, limiting plant water use, adding mulch, limiting turf area, and requirements for irrigation systems. 

Required Forms for Prescriptive Compliance:

• MWELO Project Information Form (complete and submit when applying for a permit)
• MWELO  Prescriptive Compliance - Short Form (items on checklist are required and must be documented on your submitted landscape plan)

Performance Compliance Approach (May be used for any size project; required for projects greater than 2500 sq. ft.)

For landscapes of any size subject to MWELO, the Performance Compliance Approach can be used. The Performance Compliance Approach must be used for landscapes larger than 2,500 sq. ft. The Performance Compliance Approach has additional requirements beyond the Prescriptive Compliance Option. The Performance Compliance Approach must include a soil management report, landscape design plan, irrigation design plan, and a grading design plan. More specifics on the requirements of this approach can be found below in the Landscape Documentation Package Form.

Required Forms for Performance Compliance

Additional Resources

The City of Davis MWELO Information Handout provides information on revisions to the MWELO and required information to comply with the ordinance.

Information on plant water needs can be found through the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) Database.


Email or call (530) 757-5610 during business hours and ask to speak to a planner on duty.