California Lawmakers Approve Non-Functional Turf Ban

Published: September 21, 2023

Julia Mes, CalWEP Staff

Legislation that would require that the use of potable water be prohibited for the irrigation of non-functional turf on commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) properties passed the State Senate on September 12. The bill is currently awaiting Governor Newsom’s decision. CalWEP took a support position on the bill earlier this year.

Non-functional turf is turf areas that are decorative and have no other functions, such as recreation. The prohibition includes turf located on road medians and outside businesses that are not used for recreation. Exempt from the ban are functional grass, such as sports fields, picnic areas, cemeteries, and the areas irrigated with recycled water. This legislation does not address any residential turf.  

The ban takes effect in stages for CII landscapes. Those stages are:

  • 2027 - Properties owned by local governments
  • 2028 - Commercial and industrial properties
  • 2029 - Common areas of homeowners’ associations
  • 2031 – Properties owned by local governments in disadvantaged communities or when state funding for turf replacement is available

For scale, according to an article published last week from the Los Angeles Times, 51,000 acres of the estimated 218,000 acres in the service area of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is categorized as non-functional turf. Replacing an area of grass that size is estimated to reduce the region’s water use by roughly 10 percent.

AB 1572 follows similar legislation passed in 2021 in Nevada. With drought, climate change, the shrinking Colorado River and California’s agricultural needs, there has been a growing urgency to reduce water consumption and promote sustainable landscaping choices in the West. The ban also represents a shift in our social values as a state. Replacing unused grass allows us to reflect California’s native beauty that can thrive in drought and dryer climates. The ban is a step in helping California move towards achieving evolving urban water use regulations and water efficiency standards.

CalWEP commends the efforts of Assemblymember Friedman in promoting water efficiency and conservation across California.

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