Urban Water Use Efficiency

Water that is not used for agriculture or to support the environment is referred to as “urban water.” Urban water includes water that is used for:


  • Drinking
  • Toilets and showers
  • Landscaping
  • Car washing
  • Businesses
  • Industrial processes


Climate change, population growth, land development, and increasing regulations on water use impact our water supply, which means that we must be more diligent in conserving the water we have now, so that we have sufficient supply for the future.  


Water waste costs everyone. Waste leads to higher water prices, and developing new water supply solutions such as building more reservoirs, water recycling, and desalination, are all expensive options.  


To help ensure that we use our urban water supplies wisely, the Urban Water Use Efficiency program provides information and assistance to water suppliers, agencies, and the public in several areas:


  • Urban water management planning and other water supplier management and reporting requirements
  • Leak detection information and resources to reduce water waste
  • Understanding and implementing the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO)
  • Commercial, Institutional, and Industrial water efficient practices
  • Tips on what individuals can to do save water

About half of the urban water is used for landscape irrigation in California. Large water savings can be gained by proper landscape design, installation, and maintenance. New development and retrofitted landscape water efficiency standards are governed by the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO). All agencies must adopt, implement, and enforce the MWELO or a more stringent ordinance.


In 2015, Executive Order B-29-15  tasked DWR with revising the 2010 updated MWELO to increase water efficiency standards for new and retrofitted landscapes through encouraging the use of more efficient irrigation systems, greywater usage, and onsite storm water capture, and by limiting the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf. Updating the ordinance to incorporate these elements will help stretch our limited water supplies. The EO also required that agencies report on their implementation and enforcement of local ordinances by December 31, 2015.  DWR’s Water Use and Efficiency branch worked with several affected agencies, interested groups, and the public to prepare the current (2015) updated MWELO to improve landscape irrigation water savings in accordance with the EO.   

For Implementation Agencies Reports, previous submittals, and archived public process records, please contact WELO@water.ca.gov


Data and Transparency

As of June 9, 2017, the following UWMPs have been submitted to DWR:

394 Urban Water Suppliers
12 Suppliers voluntary (not required)

6 Regional Alliances

Submitted documents and data may be viewed on the WUE Data Portal.

Publications & Reports

Related Pages

Contact Information

What's New!

SB 555 added Section 10608.34 to the California Water Code, requiring DWR to establish rules for conducting and validating water loss audits, technical qualifications for persons performing water loss audit validation, and reporting requirements for submitting validated water loss audits to the Department.


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