NRDC Sues 2 California Cities for Failure to Implement Water-Efficient Landscaping Requirements

With Half of All Urban Water Being Used Outdoors, Strong Landscape Standards Are Critical to Preserving California’s Water Supplies

LOS ANGELES — The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) yesterday filed suits against the cities of Pasadena and Murrieta for their failure to comply with California’s Water Conservation in Landscaping Act. 

Under the Act, all cities in California are required to ensure that all new landscapes adhere to water efficiency standards that are equal to or greater than the standards set forth in the Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) established in 2015. In responding to public records requests from NRDC, neither Pasadena nor Murrieta provided any evidence that they had implemented the requirements for landscape installations that are required under the Act and the 2015 MWELO.

“Nearly half of all the drinking water California uses in urban areas is poured on lawns and other outdoor spaces,” said Ed Osann, director of NRDC’s Water Efficiency Project. “If the state wants to continue growing and ensure it has affordable drinking water for all its residents, it’s crucial that the landscapes around homes and businesses be designed and installed to be both attractive and water-efficient.”

The suits, filed in state courts, allege that each city:

  • failed to adopt new landscaping standards by December 1, 2015, as required by law.
  • issued permits for hundreds of housing units and associated landscaping since December 1, 2015, without applying the state-required standards intended to prevent the waste of water in new landscapes.
  • failed to submit required reports to the state on the content and enforcement of their local landscape requirements.

In today’s litigation, NRDC is asking the courts to:

  • require the cities of Pasadena and Murrieta enforce the 2015 MWELO in the absence of the adoption of a local ordinance that is at least as effective at conserving water.
  • require the cities to submit to the Department of Water Resources, the agency that oversees MWELO, all outstanding annual reports, including those for the calendar years 2015 and 2016.
  • issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the cities from issuing any new building permits, to which the Act’s requirements would apply, until the City has adopted the 2015 MWELO or a local ordinance that is at least as effective in conserving water.
  • order the cities to account for and offset excessive water use resulting from their failure to comply with the Act.

The suit naming Pasadena was filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles County, and the suit naming Murrieta was filed in Superior Court in Riverside County.

For more about the lawsuits and the landscape ordinances, please read NRDC Sues CA Cities Over Lax Landscape Water Requirements, a blog by Ed Osann.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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