Surviving Droughts in California: A Homeowner's Guide to Restrictions, Rebates, and Conservation

Surviving Droughts in California: A Homeowner's Guide to Restrictions, Rebates, and Conservation - My Store

In the arid landscapes of California, water is a precious resource. With stringent water restrictions in place, homeowners must adapt and make the most of every drop. In this guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of California's water restrictions and provide actionable insights on efficient lawn watering, water rebates, and other home water conservation methods.

Water Restrictions Rules in California

Understanding California's current water restrictions is crucial in preserving our precious water resources. The State Water Board has outlined these requirements, some of which are effective until December 2023, and others until June 2024.

Effective until December 2023 Outdoor Watering Practices:

Prohibitions include outdoor watering that lets water run onto sidewalks and other non-absorbent areas, except for incidental runoff.

Vehicle Washing:

It is prohibited to wash vehicles without an automatic shutoff nozzle.

Hard Surface Cleaning:

Washing hard surfaces like driveways or sidewalks that do not absorb water is restricted.

Street Cleaning and Construction:

Street cleaning or construction site preparation using potable water is not allowed.

Decorative Features:

Filling decorative fountains, lakes, or ponds with potable water is restricted unless a recirculation pump is used.

Rainfall Timing:

Outdoor watering is not permitted within 48 hours after at least 1/4 inch of rainfall.

Decorative Grass:

Watering decorative grass on public medians is also restricted.

Effective until June 2024 Commercial and Institutional Areas:

Additional restrictions include watering decorative grass in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas, including common areas of homeowners’ associations (HOAs). A dry lake bed with mountains in the background Understanding the consequences of not complying with California's water restrictions is essential. Non-compliance can result in various penalties and potential environmental impacts. All water use prohibitions mentioned earlier are considered "infractions." Entities with the authority to enforce infractions, including local water suppliers and cities, may impose fines for violations. Violations may lead to fines of up to $500 per day.

Non-compliance with water restrictions not only carries financial penalties but also poses a risk to the state's water resources. It's crucial for all Californians to follow these regulations diligently to ensure the sustainable use of water.

Accessing official resources is essential to stay informed about California's water restrictions and conservation efforts.

State Water Board - Water Conservation Requirements: Refer to the official document outlining the current water conservation requirements.

SaveWater.CA.Gov: Visit this website to report potential water use violations and access valuable water-saving tips and resources.

Water Your Lawn Efficiently During Restrictions

Efficient lawn watering is not only a matter of following regulations; it is a responsible practice with multiple benefits. It reduces water waste, preserves this precious resource, and contributes to a more sustainable future. Additionally, it saves you money on your water bills.

Smart Irrigation Technologies

Smart irrigation technologies are the key to efficient lawn watering. They optimize watering based on real-time weather data and can automatically adjust the watering schedule, duration, and frequency to match your lawn's needs.

For example, smart sprinkler systems may skip a scheduled watering session if rain is in the forecast. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the root zone, minimizing wasteful overspray.

Soil moisture sensors measure the moisture levels in the soil and send a signal to your irrigation system to water when the soil reaches a specific moisture threshold. By incorporating these smart technologies, you can achieve precise, efficient irrigation results.

Scheduling Irrigation Effectively

To schedule irrigation effectively, pay attention to seasonal watering requirements, timing, and frequency. Lawns have varying water needs throughout the year. During the hotter months, your lawn may need more frequent watering, while in cooler seasons, it may require less. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Water your lawn during the early morning or late evening when temperatures are lower to reduce water loss through evaporation. This ensures that more water reaches the roots of your grass and plants. Pay attention to your lawn's moisture needs and adjust the frequency of watering sessions as needed.

Sprinkler Adjustment Techniques

A sprinkler spraying water on a green lawn

Fine-tuning your sprinkler system is essential to prevent water wastage. Regularly check for leaks in your sprinkler system and address any issues promptly. Ensure that your sprinklers cover the lawn evenly by adjusting the spray patterns and positioning of individual sprinkler heads. Adjust the water pressure to achieve uniform water distribution. Uneven pressure can lead to some areas receiving too much water while others remain dry.

According to Dan McCurry, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, "That’s to say your yard doesn’t need to be a barren wasteland — you can have a bit of green landscaping and still easily comply with the restrictions as long as you’re sensible about it."

Take Advantage of Water Rebate Programs

California homeowners have access to a variety of water rebate programs offered by their local water utilities and government agencies. These programs can help offset the cost of purchasing and installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures, such as toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and irrigation systems.

To find out what rebate programs are available in your area, visit the website of your local water utility or the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). You can also search for rebates online using the WaterSense Rebate Finder tool.

Eligibility criteria for rebate programs vary depending on the specific program and water utility. However, most programs require homeowners to be residential customers and to replace existing appliances and fixtures with water-efficient models.

To apply for a rebate, you will typically need to submit an application form, proof of purchase, and photos of the installed appliance or fixture. Be sure to read the program guidelines carefully before applying to ensure that you meet all of the eligibility requirements.

Water rebate programs can help homeowners save money on their water bills and reduce their environmental impact. For example, the average household can save up to $140 per year on their water bill by installing a WaterSense-labeled toilet. Additionally, WaterSense-labeled appliances and fixtures use less water, which helps to conserve this precious resource.

Some additional tips for success:

  • Apply for rebates as soon as possible after purchasing a water-efficient appliance or fixture. Most programs have limited funding and rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Keep a copy of all of your rebate application materials for your records.
  • If you have any questions about the rebate application process, contact your local water utility or the DWR.

Other Water Conservation Measures

When it comes to conserving water at home, there are several innovative strategies that go beyond the standard methods. These strategies can help you further reduce water consumption while promoting sustainability.


Xeriscaping is an environmentally friendly landscaping approach that focuses on water efficiency. By choosing drought-resistant plants and implementing efficient irrigation design, you can significantly reduce the need for frequent watering.

Some tips for creating a xeriscape garden:

  • Incorporate native or drought-tolerant plants.
  • Group plants based on their water needs.
  • Use techniques like mulching and smart irrigation systems.


Mulching is a simple yet effective technique to conserve soil moisture and improve plant health. It acts as a protective layer on the soil's surface, reducing evaporation and preventing weed growth. By regulating soil temperature and protecting plant roots from extreme weather conditions, mulch contributes to a healthier and water-efficient garden.

Some tips for mulching your garden:

  • Use organic materials like bark chips, straw, or compost.
  • Apply a layer of mulch that is 2-3 inches thick.
  • Keep mulch away from the base of plants to prevent stem rot.

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels offer an eco-friendly way to collect and store rainwater for various outdoor tasks like watering your garden or lawn. These barrels are easy to install, typically placed beneath a downspout to collect rainwater runoff. Equipped with screens to filter out debris and overflow outlets to prevent flooding, rain barrels allow you to reduce your reliance on tap water, particularly during dry periods.

Some tips for using rain barrels:

  • Be sure to place your rain barrel in a level area.
  • Clean your rain barrel regularly to prevent algae growth.
  • Use the collected rainwater within a few weeks to avoid stagnation.

Graywater Recycling

Graywater recycling involves reusing gently used water from sinks, showers, and laundry for purposes like landscape irrigation or toilet flushing. While it offers benefits like reduced demand for fresh water and lower water bills, it's essential to follow local regulations, install a suitable graywater system, and use environmentally friendly soaps and detergents to ensure responsible recycling.

Some tips for graywater recycling:

  • Check your local regulations to determine if graywater recycling is permitted in your area.
  • Install a graywater system that meets local codes and standards.
  • Use environmentally friendly soaps and detergents that are safe for graywater recycling.

Indoor Water Efficiency

A young girl washes vegetables in a kitchen sink Achieving indoor water efficiency involves identifying and repairing leaks and installing water-efficient fixtures. Regularly inspecting plumbing for leaks is crucial, as even minor drips can lead to significant water waste. Water-efficient fixtures, including low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets, are designed to minimize water consumption without compromising performance. By incorporating these fixtures, you can significantly reduce indoor water usage and lower water bills.

Some tips for indoor water efficiency:

  • Regularly inspect plumbing for leaks.
  • Install water-efficient fixtures, such as low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Fix any dripping faucets or running toilets promptly.

FAQs about Water Restrictions in California

Outdoor dining area on a lawn with palm trees How will I know if I'm under drought restrictions?

You can typically find information about drought restrictions through official sources such as your local water utility, government websites, and news updates. Notifications may also be sent out to residents through various channels.

At what times can I water my lawn?

The permitted times for lawn watering can vary based on your location and the stage of the drought. It's best to check with your local water supplier or government agencies for specific watering schedules and restrictions in your area.

What are HOA requirements during drought emergencies?

HOA requirements during drought emergencies can vary. In some cases, HOAs may be required to enforce restrictions on watering decorative grass and other non-essential landscaping. It's essential to review your HOA guidelines and local regulations to understand specific requirements.

Are there any penalties for violating the drought restrictions?

Yes, there can be penalties for violating drought restrictions. Violations of water use prohibitions are typically considered infractions and may result in fines. The specific penalties and enforcement procedures may vary depending on local authorities and regulations. It's advisable to follow the restrictions to avoid penalties and support water conservation efforts.

How long do water restrictions typically last during a drought?

The duration of water restrictions can vary widely depending on the severity and duration of the drought. Restrictions may be in place for several months or even years until water reservoirs and supplies are replenished.

Are businesses and commercial properties subject to the same water restrictions as residential properties?

Water restrictions often apply to all water users, including residential, commercial, and industrial properties. However, commercial and industrial users may have separate guidelines and requirements based on their water needs and usage patterns.