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Water Efficient Landscape Standards

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The Water Efficient Landscape Standards (WELS) are intended to promote water conservation while allowing flexibility in designing attractive and cost-effective water-wise landscapes. The California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) allows local agencies to use their own Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance provided it is at least as stringent as the State MWELO. The City of Santa Barbara (City) WELS have been approved by California DWR for continued use in lieu of the State’s MWELO.

Compliance with the City’s WELS is mandatory whenever a landscaping or irrigation plan is required by any Chapter or Section of the City Municipal Code or by any City design review or land use review body (SBMC § 14.23.005, Ordinance 6101, and Council Resolution No. 23-007). 

For further questions regarding the WELS, please call the Water Conservation Program at (805) 564-5460.

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The WELS Resolution contains the details of compliance and defines several important terms such as “Water Wise Plants” and “Turf.” Please see here for the full version showing the changes as compared to the 2008 Resolution.

The Landscape Compliance Checklist shows a concise list of what is required as part of a landscape plan submittal. The Landscape Compliance Statement should be copied onto all landscaping plans submitted to the City as part of a permit application and needs to be completed and signed to receive final approval.

If an applicant decides to submit a WELS worksheet, ensure that the City WELS worksheet is used, or that the submitted worksheet has an max ETo of 45.13” (10 year average ETo from CIMIS Station 107). The submitted worksheet must also have an average ETAF 0.5 or less for residential projects, or 0.37 or less for non-residential projects.

Other resources include the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS IV) plant list and the City’s locally adapted Addendum to the WUCOLS list. The Addendum displays plants which WUCOLS IV lists as ‘moderate-water-use’ but that the City recognizes as ‘water-wise’ (low-water-use) based on local experience.