Adams Stirling PLC


Drought Tolerant Plants. Governing documents cannot prohibit or include conditions that have the effect of prohibiting or restricting the use of low water-using or drought-tolerant plants as a group or as a replacement for existing turf. (Civ. Code § 4735,) Associations can, however, adopt landscaping rules that govern the types of low water-using plants that will be allowed and establish other landscaping requirements.

Potable Water.  Beginning January 1, 2029, associations cannot use potable water for the irrigation of nonfunctional turf. “Nonfunctional turf” means any turf that is not functional turf, and includes turf located within street rights-of-way and parking lots. (Water Code § 10540; Water Code § 10608.12; Water Code § 10608.14.) Following are answers to frequently asked questions published by the California's Water Resources Control Board:

What is “turf”?
Turf means “a ground cover surface of mowed grass.”

What is “non-functional turf” or “decorative grass”?
Non-functional turf is a ground cover surface of mowed grass that is ornamental and not otherwise used for human recreation purposes. Non-functional turf does not include school fields, sports fields, and areas regularly used for civic or community events. To use more everyday language, this document intends for “decorative grass” to have the same meaning that non-functional turf does in the regulation.

Can my HOA stop me from conserving water?
No. Homeowners may remove their lawns and replace them with water-wise plants. If you install water-efficient landscaping during the drought, your homeowners’ association (HOA) cannot prevent you from maintaining it or require you to remove it when there is no longer a drought state of emergency. Additionally, your HOA cannot impose a fine or assessment for reducing or eliminating the watering of vegetation or lawns during a drought state of emergency, nor can it prohibit, or include conditions that have the effect of prohibiting, the use of low water-using plants as a group or as a replacement of existing grass. This enforcement may violate the Davis-Stirling Act. The State Water Board or a local agency could impose penalties on any HOA that violates specific portions of the Davis-Stirling Act. For more information and practical tips for making your yard more water-wise, visit

Does the ban on watering decorative grass apply to HOAs?
Yes, the ban on using potable water to water decorative grass applies to some HOA landscapes, but only to decorative grass on property the HOA owns or maintains and not at individual residences (or separate interests). While an individual’s property is considered residential, property owned or maintained by an HOA is treated the same as other landscapes owned by commercial or institutional entities. The regulation does not ban watering decorative grass with recycled water, watering grass regularly used for recreation or community activities, or watering trees or other non-grass plants.

In an HOA, who decides if grass is decorative?
An HOA should review areas of grass that it maintains, consult with residents, and determine whether the grass is decorative. Water suppliers may defer to HOAs’ determinations that specific areas of grass are used for recreation or community events. However, water suppliers also retain the authority to enforce the watering ban if there is a documented violation.

May property managers use recycled water or greywater to water decorative grass?
Yes, however the Board encourages people to prioritize watering trees and other plants due to the drought and the amount of water required for grass. Also, check with your local water supplier if they have stricter water use rules than the State Water Board.

Do the regulations affect trees? Do urban trees need to be watered?
The regulations do not restrict watering trees. The Board urges people to continue to water trees, even while reducing or stopping the watering of grass. Newly planted trees usually need to be watered more frequently than mature trees, including hand watering. Trees near or on decorative grass can still be watered even when individual sprinkler heads or zones that water only decorative grass must be turned off or capped. For more information about tree species and water needs, visit the Save Our Trees section within 

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.  

Adams Stirling PLC