Water use is about to change in a big way for commercial and industrial property owners interested in keeping their lawns green.
During a webinar on Tuesday hosted by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber, water officials with the city of Bakersfield and California Water Service said owners and managers of commercial, industrial and institutional properties are now barred from using potable water for irrigating non-functional turf.
The tough, new rules are coming via the State Water Resources Control Board.
“We want to make sure, and the city as a partner wants to make sure, that our businesses have the up-to-date information about what is and isn’t in the regulations, what is and isn’t legal, and also ways our members and commercial property owners have of ensuring that they are in compliance,” said Nick Ortiz, Chamber president and CEO.
The primary goal of the webinar was to educate commercial, industrial and institutional property owners, to share important information and to help people successfully navigate the new regulations, said Bakersfield Assistant City Manager Gary Hallen.
The heart of the new regulations is a ban on using potable — or drinkable — water to irrigate “non-functional turf” at commercial, industrial and institutional sites.
The new restrictions are in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 28 executive order calling for water conservation directives to address “California’s new normal of climate extremes,” the state said in a news release.
The new rules became effective on June 10.
“Trees are OK to irrigate,” said City Water Director Sam Blue.
In fact, the state was clear that it wants to prevent the loss of trees, and other perennial plantings, a loss experienced locally during the last protracted drought.
Non-functional turf is defined by the water board as “a ground cover surface of mowed grass that is ornamental and not otherwise used for human recreation purposes.”
It does not include “school fields, sports fields or areas regularly used for civic or community events.”
In addition, residential properties are not affected by the new rules. Not yet. Residents may continue to irrigate turf, subject to local rules.
However, homeowners associations are affected by these regulations, but not on the residential properties themselves, water officials said.
The state board is encouraging people to reduce lawn irrigation on their properties and to convert turf to water-wise plants. But at this point, these actions are not required.
Residents may use recycled water or so-called gray water to irrigate lawns. But again, the board encourages people to prioritize the irrigation of trees and other plants due to the severity of the drought and the amount of water required for turf.
Those who violate the strict regulations could be subject to stiff fines.
Local or state enforcement may include warning letters, conservation orders, and fines of up to $500 per day, officials said.
The board is encouraging local agencies to provide additional assistance to disadvantaged communities and translate conservation announcements and materials into the languages spoken at properties in commercial, industrial and institutional sectors.
Rebates may be available for commercial, industrial and institutional sites that make water-saving improvements, such as replacing turf with low-water use landscaping, switching irrigation from spray to drip, replacing old equipment with smart irrigation controllers, and other changes.
Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.