California AB 1881 in bullet points

Posted on | May 13, 2009 | 5 Comments

UPDATE: 2/19/2010: The new book, Landscape Plants for California Gardens by Cal Poly Pomona professor Bob Perry, gives thorough descriptions for 2,100 landscape plants, their ET budgets, run downs on irrigation system efficiency needed to satisfy those budgets, and then links them all back by plant palette and climate zone groupings — for every climate zone in the state. For information on the major new book for professional landscape designers and architects as well as advanced home gardeners, click here.

UPDATE: 9/22/2009 — California’s Updated Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance AB1881 was approved by the Office of Administrative Law on September 10, 2009. For a link to the announcement from the California Department of Water Resources, click here.

For a bullet point guide to it, done with help from Julie Ann Saare-Edmonds of the Landscape Program, Office of Water Use Efficiency, California Department of Water Resources, read on.

*There are relatively few changes from the previous 1990 law, AB 325. AB 1881 is mainly aimed at irrigation technology that will solve common problems such as such as swing joints, so when risers are broken off, they do not gush unnoticed for weeks.

* AB 1881 is mostly aimed at new construction and commercial landscapers.

* AB 1881 only applies to single family residences that are being put in by developers with gardens larger than 2,500 square feet, or to existing single family homes where the landscaped area is more than 5,000 sq feet and undergoing a changeover.

*AB 1881 comes into effect in 2010.

*AB 1881 will require landscapers to use “appropriate technology,” often meaning drip irrigation.

*AB 1881 does not and may not prohibit use of certain plants, such as turf grass.

*AB 1881 does, however, have a budget as to how much water may be applied to those plants and reduces the statewide ET factor from 0.8 to 0.7. If parts of the state have local ordinances operating lower than state law, then the lower ET rate applies there. So the folks in San Diego may not water more and blame Sacramento. The lower limits specified by AB 1881 do not apply to public recreational turf.

*Existing landscapes and irrigation systems will not be forced to retrofit under AB 1881 unless there is a renovation. (Editor’s note: So it will be up to local utility companies and city governments to use rebates to entice  homeowners to upgrade.)

And the best for last….

*Parkways will now have to be irrigated without over-spray. No overhead irrigation is allowed in areas less than 8 feet wide and within 24″ of non-permeable hardscapes.

Pigeons who like puddles in the gutter will object, but “non-permeable hardscapes” mean the street.

Saare-Edmonds kindly sent this picture to show what can be done on parkways without lawn.



5 Responses to “California AB 1881 in bullet points”

  1. Owen Dell
    September 29th, 2009 @ 11:09 am

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks so much for the fast-format info on AB1881. It’s just what I was looking for. Now the only question is when I’ll get around to reading the real thing. For now, I appreciate your help with this.


  2. Workshops explain new statewide landscape irrigation ordinance | Chance of Rain
    October 19th, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

    […] new ordinance on water use in landscapes, AB 1881, became law in September. Counties and cities will be required to comply with it, or stricter local […]

  3. Water conservation in the landscape – the obvious stuff. « Degraafassoc’s Blog
    November 1st, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

    […] Green, a columnist for the LA Times posted a bullet point list on ordinance AB 1881.  Her list does an excellent job of illustrating which projects that will be […]

  4. Vanessa Santos
    May 27th, 2010 @ 9:08 am

    The Los Angles San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council (LASGRWC)just held a wonderful class called Planning and Planting the New CA Landscape with Bob Perry and others. It was a fantastic class that dealt primarily with how to interpret and implement AB1881. There was also a great deal of talk on the fact that much of the language in the AB 1881 document is very flexible and can be interpreted in many ways. Each local agency has the last word for how it is to be interpreted. Just some thoughts to consider while moving forward. Thanks for the post!

  5. Jason Scott
    November 9th, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

    Thank you for leaving this post online. It is amazing how many professionals refuse to acknowledge – and/or are to this day not making allowances for the application of this law. Inconsistent enforcement across the board is also a problem as knowledgeable professionals choose to comply while so many others go on with business as usual.

Leave a Reply

  • After the lawn

  • As you were saying: Comments

  • As I was saying: Recent posts

  • Garden blogs

  • Contact

    Emily Green by e-mail at [at]
  • Categories