Moab, UT

Water Wise Landscaping Code for New Development Our Approach Project Outcomes

Project Goal

WaterNow and Western Resource Advocates (WRA) partnered with the City of Moab to develop a water efficient landscape ordinance, for new and redevelopment, to increase water supply resilience in the face of threats like a growing population and less predictable precipitation trends due to climate change. This project was designed to bring additional capacity and expertise to Moab and help local decision makers achieve their sustainable water goals for the community.

Our Approach

In Summer 2021, Moab applied to WaterNow Alliance’s Project Accelerator Program with the goals of seeking support to develop a new water efficient landscaping ordinance that included concepts such as setting a maximum percentage of cool-season turfgrass, creating a City approved plant list, requiring irrigation systems be “smart” with automatic control, and setting a landscape water budget that would set a limit on how many gallons of water a property could devote to its annual irrigation needs, among other regulations. WaterNow, in collaboration with our partners at Western Resource Advocates, supported these efforts through review of existing waterwise landscaping ordinances across similar communities across the West, a robust stakeholder engagement process with local landscape professionals, the Moab Water Board, Planning Commission, and various City Council workshops and meetings, and drafting, revising and finalizing the code language with the Planning Department and Sustainability Director. The research and interviews helped Moab develop an ordinance tailored to local conditions and concerns.


On September 12, 2023, the Moab City Council unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 2023-08 creating a new Chapter 17.10 Water Efficient Landscaping Standards for New Developments. The primary intent of the new landscape regulations is to enhance and preserve the community’s quality of life and property values by enriching the visual environment, supporting public safety, and contributing to a resilient and sustainable environment by reducing outdoor water demand. This new ordinance applies to new landscape plans immediately.

The scale of development, redevelopment, or improvement determines the level of required landscaping standards. For example, a single-family home remodel project that triggers a building permit would not be required to abide by the irrigation efficiency standards, however a new subdivision that triggers site plan review would be required to follow all irrigation standards. Some of the specific standards are included below:

  • A minimum of 25% of the landscaped area coverage must be living plant materials.
  • At least 90% of all forbs, shrubs, and trees, and 100% of groundcovers and ornamental grasses must be selected from the City’s Approved Plant List.
  • Cool season turfgrass is limited to 10% of the total landscaped area (or 200 square feet), whichever is greater.
  • Mulch shall be applied at a minimum depth of 2-3 inches. (Some native plants are exempt from mulching.)
  • Smart irrigation controllers and spray sprinkler bodies labeled by the US EPA WaterSense are required.
  • The total irrigation water needed for all hydrozones cannot exceed a Maximum Applied Water Budget of 15 gallons/square foot/season (24in/season) unless the site is using graywater or rainwater capture.

The ordinance also includes an indoor efficiency policy identified in the City’s Water Conservation Plan which requires all new and remodeled (or “refreshed”) lodging units and new residential units in Moab to install WaterSense-labeled fixtures (faucets, showerheads, toilets, and urinals) and Energy Star-qualified appliances. Since the hotel and tourism industry is very robust in Moab, and typically hotel rooms are refreshed every 5-7 years, this is expected to result in significant water savings.