This article was posted on Saturday, Aug 01, 2015

How can I encourage my tenants to conserve water?

One way to encourage your tenants to save water is to make them responsible for their water bill. If your tenants are on a month-to-month rental agreement and have a separate water meter, then you may issue a Thirty (30) Day Notice of Change in Terms of Tenancy thereby shifting the responsibility for the water bill onto your tenants. 

How can I save water on my properties?[1]

If there is a yard or grass on the property only water it two days a week. Check to see if there are leaks on the property, such as a leaky toilet or faucet. While it may seem like just a little bit of water, it does add up and can save you money.

The City of San Diego has instituted a free Residential Water Survey Program for property owners that are located within the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department service area.  The Water Survey Program is available for property owners who own single and multifamily units. Participants will receive water saving equipment including water saving shower-heads, and faucet aerators. They will also receive a detailed report about water usage and ways to decrease water use.

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The multi- family Water Survey Program has two approaches, the short survey and the long survey.

Short Survey: The water surveyor trains the onsite maintenance person how to check for water leaks, measure pressure flow and check for toilet leaks. The surveyor then conducts a survey of each unit.  If there is a landscape, an irrigation specialist will come to the property, conduct an inspection and make recommendations to reduce water. After the proper paperwork is submitted by the surveyor an analytical report will generated. 

Long Survey: This approach is available to apartment complexes up to 25 units. The surveyors will check every unit and measure water flows, check for leaks, and provide water use reduction equipment.  The long survey does require that the maintenance person assist the surveyor in the inspection.  

What are the water-use restrictions?[2]

Everyone must follow the mandatory water use restrictions at all times. Mandatory measures include limiting watering landscape to two days per week, five minutes per day, between the hours of 6pm and 10am. For systems with multiple stations, water 5 minutes per station. The 5 minute time limit does not apply to landscape irrigation systems using water efficient devices such as drip, or micro irrigation systems and stream rotor sprinklers. Although these systems are considered water efficient, they should still follow the two day per week schedule.  A schedule of when to water can be found on the citys website. Irrigation is permitted any day at any time as required by a landscape permit, erosion control, for establishment, repair or renovation of public use fields for schools and parks, and for landscape establishment following a disaster. However irrigation is prohibited during a rain event and for 48 hours after precipitation. Other water use restrictions include repairing all leaks immediately. All Decorative fountains must use a recirculating pump and can only run for maintenance. When washing cars use hoses with shut off valves and use biodegradable soap. This way you can wash your car on your lawn. Washing machines account for a large part of water used in a home; new commercial laundry facilities must have a recirculating pump.[3] Overfilling of pools and spas and using potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways is strictly prohibited.  

Who must cut their water use and by how much?

The City of San Diego, as a whole, must reduce their water use by 16% by February 2016. If

the city does not meet this demand, then the State Water Resources Control Board can fine the City $10,000 per day. Conserving water is everybody’s responsibility. Some water users will have to cut more so it is not an unfair burden to those who have already cut their water use significantly.[4] 

As a landlord what is the obligation of the fines for water overuse?

Again, if your tenants are on a month-to-month agreement and have a separate water meter, consider serving a Thirty (30) Day Notice of Change in Terms of Tenancy to either shift the responsibility of the water bill to your tenants or make them responsible for any resulting fine.  Currently the city is allocating fines to the person whose name is on the bill. Meaning if the tenants name is on the bill, then the fines will go to them, however, if the landlords name is on the bill then they are responsible.   

Will the City fine me if I dont meet the water use reduction target?

The city is currently fining for violations of water use restrictions, water waste and non-compliance of mandates. Individual targets have not been set. However, if the City is not able to meet the 16% reduction they may consider setting customer reduction targets and fines.[5] 

When can I water the landscape at my apartment buildings?

Apartment buildings may water the landscape at their buildings on Monday and Friday for five minutes between the hours of 6pm and 10am. If there are several parcels each parcel may be watered for five minutes.[6] 

How is the City of San Diego enforcing the restrictions?

The city will be enforcing the water use restrictions through the Public Utilities Department and Transportation & Storm Water Department. Authorized city worker issue Notice of Violation (NOV), which do not carry a monetary fine, and administrative citations which can carry a fine of up to $1,000. These NOV’s and administrative citations are issued for verified water waste. Water waste is verified by adequate photos or if it is witnessed by a code enforcement officer. A property owner who was issued an NOV can be issued a citation if the problem is not remedied. A citation may be given if a violation is observed on the same property even if it is a different problem. This means that if there are multiple violations on a property, a person may receive a notice of violation for the first problem, but will subsequently receive an administrative citation for the next water waste violation.  Additionally, if a person were to own many properties they can receive separate notice of violations and administrative citations for each of the properties they own.[7]   

Where can I find information on how to save water or incentive programs?

The City of San Diego website has several resources and several suggestions on ways to save water as well as rebate programs.[8]

[1] City of San Diego. (2015). Water Survey Programs. Retrieved from:

[2] City of San Diego. (2015, June 18). Water Use Restrictions. Retrieved from:

[3] City of San Diego. (2015). Drought Alert: Mandatory Water Use Restrictions. Retrieved from:

[4] City of San Diego. (2015, June 18). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from:

[5] City of San Diego. (2015, June 18). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from:

[6] City of San Diego. (2015, June 18). Water Use Restrictions. Retrieved from:

[7] City of San Diego. (2015, June 18). Water Enforcement. Retrieved from:


Attorney Franco Simone, of the www.landlordslegalcenter.comand has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM .-  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: or email [email protected]