Water Conservation Laws for California Contractors

As climate change looms large over California, state authorities have rapidly expanded and evolved water conservation initiatives across the state – all of which affect contractors in particular.

For contractor license holders, these evolving regulations not only present challenges to how you operate, but they are also a rich source of opportunity to leverage sustainability into success. 

Let’s explore how licensed contractors can utilize California’s water conservation strategies to not only comply with regulations but also gain a competitive edge.

The Current Picture of California’s Water Conservation Laws

The cornerstone of the state’s water conservation efforts lies in the efficiency regulations formulated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). 

Contractors need to be particularly mindful of these regulations as they impact both indoor and outdoor water use, which you will surely know is pivotal part of any construction job.

When it comes to legislation, Senate Bill 1157 is one of the main pieces you need to worry about. SB 1157 sets indoor water use targets to 47 gallons per day by 2025 and 42 gallons by 2030. This law mandates contractors to ensure that their projects – residential or commercial – comply with these targets​, or face criminal penalties

Compliance with Outdoor Water Use Recommendations

The DWR has also submitted outdoor water use efficiency recommendations to the State Water Resources Control Board. 

These recommendations are especially important for contractors involved in landscaping and outdoor projects. The guidelines include standards for more efficient outdoor residential water use and the irrigation of large commercial, industrial, and institutional landscapes. While it’s important to note that these are currently recommendations, not requirements, we recommend basically treating them as hard-and-fast rules. Why? Well, many past DWR recommendations have become regulations in the future – so by acting now to limit your outdoor water usage on your job sites, you can gain a massive advantage over your lazy competitors.

And it’s pretty smart, too, because these recommendations can help preserve land for the future – which means more projects for all construction professionals!

Turf Transition and Conservation

Contractors need to be aware of the financial regulations associated with turf transition and water conservation. 

As of 2023, the DWR has developed funding programs that can provide financial assistance for projects that enhance resilience in urban communities, turf transition for residential and commercial landscapes, and water conservation programs for urban water suppliers​​.

Learn more about these funding problems on the DWR’s website.

Another key regulation contractors should be mindful of is Assembly Bill 2142. This bill provides a state income tax exemption for any grant, rebate, or additional financial assistance awarded for turf transition through 2027. This can be a significant incentive for clients considering water-efficient landscaping projects​​ – which means you can take advantage of this windfall.

Staying Updated

As a contractor license holder, it’s your responsibility to stay informed about the latest codes, regulations and recommendations – but more than that, it’s not just your responsibility, it’s an opportunity to make more money. 

Specific compliance requirements may vary based on the type of project you’re undertaking, but following these regulations is essential for ensuring your projects align with state standards (and that you avoid any penalties!), while also allowing you to “see into the future” of your industry

For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding penalties for non-compliance or any changes in water conservation regulations, it’s recommended to directly contact the California Department of Water Resources​.

California is changing rapidly – and you should be, too! 

Climate change is going to change everything in the state, so arm yourself with knowledge and put that knowledge to work to gain an advantage over other contractors. If you don’t adapt, you’ll get left behind.