Navigating California's Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance
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Navigating California's Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

How to Successfully Comply with California's 2015 MWELO Documentation Package
4.4 (4 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
15 students enrolled
Created by Rob Littlepage
Last updated 3/2019
English [Auto-generated]
Current price: $20.99 Original price: $29.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • 19 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • This course will teach you how to understand and design landscape and irrigation plans that comply with California's Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance for both residential and commercial landscapes
  • I'll be covering the entire 2015 updated MWELO submittal checklist and landscape documentation package and how to comply with the requirements. This course is specific to those of you working in California.
  • There are no requirements or prerquesites for taking this course
  • Some simple math will be part of the course - formulas necessary for doing the water use calculations

This Course is specifically for those working within the State of California.

The updated 2015 Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance can be confusing to comply with - especially the first time you start working to complete the documentation package required. 

This Course will walk you through the process step by step, looking at each of the elements required within the Landscape Documentation Package. The main focus of this Course will be on four of the six documents -

1.    Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet

2.    Soil Management Report

3.    Landscape Design Plan

4.    Irrigation design Plan

We'll also take a close look at the Certificates of Completion that need to be completed and submitted with the package and where the responsibility falls in filling these forms out.

What makes me qualified to teach you?

My name is Rob Littlepage and I'm a licensed landscape architect in the State of California, retired Landscape architect for the State of Louisiana.  I've completed dozens of MWELO packages for both residential and commercial clients and I'll bring this knowledge front and center for you to be able to succeed on our own projects.

By the end of this course, your confidence in completing a MWELO landscape documentation package will soar.  You'll have a thorough understanding of A.B. 1881 and you'll be confident when submitting plans and document for review!

Don't forget that You have a 30-day money back guarantee if you don't like this course so you have nothing to lose, so go ahead and click the enroll button  and I'll see you in lesson 1!

Who this course is for:
  • This course is specifically for landscape contractors, designers and landscape architects working in California.
  • This course will walk you through, step by step, on how to comply with the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance
Course content
Expand all 22 lectures 01:49:51
+ Introduction
2 lectures 06:40

With California's recurring droughts and greater stress being put on our water resources, the State has implemented the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO).  The course, specifically for those working in California, will provide guidance for landscape designers, contractors, landscape architects and design/build companies with the background knowledge they'll need to comply with this ordinance. 

I'll be discussing the State Model Ordinance - be aware that some municipalities will have stricter requirements than this "benchmark" ordinance from the State. It is your responsibility to always contact your local planning or building department to have the latest information that applies to your specific situation.

Preview 02:39

This is the starting point for compliance with MWELO.  In this lecture I'll briefly discuss the six different elements of the package and what they mean as you move forward through this process.  In Resources I've provided a sample documentation package for the City of Rocklin in Placer County - this is simply for your information, you'll want to be sure to use the package your local city or county requires.  In the next three sections we'll go over the four main documents of the package listed below -

  1. The Landscape Plan

  2. The Irrigation Plan

  3. The Soil Management Report 

  4. The Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet..

At the end of this lecture you'll have a much better understanding of what constitutes the Documentation Package and what you'll need to do to be in compliance.

Preview 04:01
+ The Landscape Documentation Package - Complying with MWELO - Part One
4 lectures 19:43

A well-crafted landscape design plan will help make the entire process of compliance much easier to work with - especially when developing the irrigation plan.  In this lecture I'll cover how to approach this plan in a manner that should simplify the work and plans you'll be developing further on. 

At the end of this lecture you'll have a much better understanding of how to select plants based on water conservation and adaptability to the site.

Preview 02:58

All plants have certain water needs.  In nature plant species grow where they have their requirements met - whether that be moisture, drier slopes, drainage, sun or shade - regardless of where the seed lands.  The plant is happy or it isn't. 

In our landscapes we're making those decisions.  It is critical we understand what each species wants and needs to thrive.   By grouping these plants together into hydrozones, meaning an area of the landscape having plants with similar water needs and root depths, we'll be able to manage water easier and have healthier gardens.  I'll be discussing the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS IV) document that will give us much of this necessary information.

By grouping plants in this manner it will make the irrigation much easier to design and manage.

in Resources you can download a PDF of an example of how a hydrozones may be sectioned out on a landscape plan.  Actual species are not listed - just low, medium and high hydrozone areas within the landscape. 

At the end of this lecture you'll understand how to use WUCOLS IV and the Sunset Western Garden Book's Climate Zones to better select plants for your design.

Preview 08:14

Special Landscape Areas are areas of the landscape that are exempt from the water use requirements and calculations, this is what makes them special.  In this lecture I'll cover what defines these special areas.

At the end of this lecture you'll know how to identify SLA's in your landscapes.

Special Landscape Areas - SLA's - How They Fit In

A soil management report - or soil analysis - is required under MWELO and this means collecting soil samples and sending them to a lab for testing.  In this lecture we'll look at a typical soil analysis report, it's recommendations and discuss sampling technique.  A copy of the soil analysis is available for download.

Soil Management Report
+ The Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet
3 lectures 20:37

In this short lecture I'll go over the criteria and the formula you'll need to use to calculate the maximum allowance of water that can be applied to a landscape.  Residential and commercial allowances will differ in the formula, so we'll look at both applications.

Preview 05:05

Now that we've seen how to calculate the maximum water allowance you can use on the landscape it's time to calculate your Estimated Total Water Use.  This value has to be lower than the MAWA and selecting the proper plants based on water use and hydrozones are key to compliance.  In this lecture I'll show how to use the formula for each hydrozone in the landscape.

Calculating Your Estimated Total Water Use (ETWU)

Now that you know how to calculate both MAWA and ETWU let's see how to calculate the average and sitewide ETAF.

ETWU - One More Thing...
+ The Landscape Documentation Package - Complying with MWELO - Part Two
4 lectures 17:26

You've carefully designed a planting plan, now it's time to design the irrigation plan that will effectively water your new landscape.  There are restrictions within MWELO on how and where different applications of irrigation can be used.

Study Section 492.7 of the Ordinance and get ready for a quiz following this lecture!

At the end of this lecture you'll be confident in your ability to understand what your particular irrigation plan will require so that it will comply with the ordinance.

The Irrigation Plan -

This quiz will test your knowledge of Section 492.7 of the landscape ordinance.  It is "Open Book" and the questions are  multiple choice and true/false. Good luck!

The Irrigation Design Plan
1 question

Knowing the precipitation rate of your irrigation system is critical to preventing runoff and proper water management.

In this lecture I'll demonstrate how to calculate precipitation rates for conventional spray irrigation

The soil management report will provide soil texture and may give you infiltration rates as well. 

In the resources for this lecture you'll find a downloadable infiltration rate chart for different soil textures and slopes as well as the formula used to calculate gross precipitation rate for your landscape. 

Once you know the precipitation rate you can adjust the irrigation run-time so runoff does not occur.

At the end of this lecture you'll know how to calculate precipitation rates of the above mentioned applications. 

Precipitation Rates for Conventional Irrigation systems

Just as with conventional irrigation systems, inline irrigation will use precipitation rates for calculating your irrigation run times.  You may be surprised to see that precipitation rates for inline drip are comparable to spray irrigation rates. 

In this lecture I'll cover the formula for calculating the precipitation rate for an inline drip system.   

Precipitation Rates for Inline Drip Irrigation

There's a saying - spray the turf and drip the shrubs.  Drip irrigation can have comparable precipitation rates as spray and be much more efficient.  MWELO designates how spray irrigation can be used in the landscape.  In this lecture I'll cover the restrictions of using spray as defined by the ordinance and tips on using drip irrigation - both point-source and inline drip systems.

At the end of this lecture you'll know which irrigation application you can use based on the landscape plan and the MWELO ordinance.

Spray vs. Drip Irrigation - They Both Have Their Place
+ The Landscape Documentation Package - Certificates of Completion
5 lectures 31:15

Reference Evapotranspiration is determined through the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS).  The ETo is described as being the amount of water that both evaporates and transpires from  cool-season turfgrass, maintained at a height of 4 - 6 inches and is very well watered.

Refer to the MWELO document in Lecture One - Resources for ETo listings directly from the WELO ordinance.

At the end of this lecture you'll learn how to use the Reference Evapotranspiration Tables from Appendix A of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance for creating a weekly Irrigation Schedule for each month of the year.

ETo - Reference This

Irrigation Scheduling is using ETo - our reference evapotranspiration rate - combined with the Plant Factor to determine how many minutes to run the system.  This can be on a daily or weekly rate. 

In this lecture we'll look at the process of creating a weekly irrigation schedule for both the establishment phase of a landscape and for the established landscape as well. 

Individual station run times will be determined by local watering day restrictions and soil infiltration rates so we do not allow runoff to occur.  You'll need to check with your local water agency and be aware of any local water restrictions or designated watering days.  Also, refer to your Soil Management Report for the infiltration rate of the soil to avoid runoff and determine actual run-times for your situation.

In this lecture you'll learn to use your local ETo  to calculate the number of minutes each week your irrigation should run, based on the month of the year.

Irrigation Scheduling - Timing Is Everything

Calculate the run-time for a high water-use planting.  From Appendix A of the MWELO ordinance find Sacramento County and select Sacramento.  Select the month with the highest ETo rate and determine the daily ETo.  Plant factor for this quiz is 0.9 and the PR is 1.75".  Download the formulas from the Resources section of Lecture 15 to complete this quiz.

Irrigation Scheduling
2 questions

Unlike conventional spray systems or inline drip irrigation, point source drip systems will use a gallons per day formula to create an irrigation schedule.  In this lecture I'll explain the Base Plant Method used in scheduling individual emitter drip systems.

Scheduling Using Point Source Drip Emitters

No matter how well  landscape and irrigation plans are installed they have to be monitored and maintained to be efficient and reliable.  While each landscape will have its own issues, a generalized Landscape and Irrigation Maintenance Schedule will comply with most MWELO projects.  Again, contact your local Planning Dept. or other authorized agency to determine the detail they may want to see in this document.

A sample Maintenance Schedule is available for download from the Resources for this Lecture.

Landscape & Irrigation Maintenance Schedule - Someone's Got To Take Care Of This

Once the irrigation has been installed it's time for an independent analysis - simply meaning, was the system installed per the plan?  In this short lecture I'll give a brief overview of what an audit is, what it's for and who is qualified to complete it. 

At the end of this lecture you'll know who is authorized to conduct an audit the steps to take to locate a certified irrigation auditor for your project.

Irrigation Audits - The Proof is in the Pudding
+ Wrap-up - What's Left
4 lectures 14:10

While not always easy to implement, having an understanding of graywater use can save water in our landscape.  In this lecture I briefly discuss this option.  Check out the Resources for more info and educational opportunities.

At the end of this lecture you'll know the definition of both of thee terms and what constitutes graywater from a household.

Graywater Systems - Once is not Enough

In this lecture I'll cover some ways to keep stormwater on site rather than having it run off the property where there is the potential of polluting our streams and rivers.  Much of this can be accomplished when driveways and walkways are first installed, how the property is graded and what we do with water from the rooftop.  The more we can capture and infiltrate rain and irrigation water back into the soil then the less water we will potentially use.

At the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with some ways to capture rainwater on-site and the concept of the mini-watershed.

Stormwater Management - Let's Keep it on Site

Documentation is always part of any government requirement and this is no exception.  Still, this is pretty easy to complete. In this lecture we'll look at the Certificates that need to be filled out, who fills them out and what do you do with them once they're complete.

Example Certificates will be found in the Resources section of Lecture One - within the MWELO document available for download.

At the end of this lecture you know how to complete this essential component of the process.

Certificates of Completion - There's Always Paperwork

We've covered a lot of ground in this course - thanks so much for making it all the way through.

In this last lecture I'll offer a quick recap of what I've discussed throughout this class.  In resources you'll find more information and links to websites where you can get further information that may more directly apply to your individual situation.

Thank You and Further Resources