Landscaping with Recycled Water

California has entered a time of year-to-year uncertainty surrounding its water supply. The past seven years have seen five years of historic drought, followed by a year of historic rainfall, followed by another below-average year. Although the drought of 2011 – 2015 is over, water conservation measures are here to stay. In order to meet current and future demands for water, NSDWRC is working to diversify its water supply portfolio by delivering high-quality, local, recycled water that is 'fit-for-purpose' instead of treating all customers equally. Recycled water meets most of the state requirements for Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) of drinking water, making it ideal for landscaping needs.

Benefits of Recycled Water

Leveraging recycled water for landscaping makes economic sense and protects your landscape investment from drought restrictions. Not only does recycled water already include key nutrients for plant health, reducing the need for additional fertilizer, it can be more cost-effective than potable water. Many agencies typically sell recycled water at a reduced rate, as compared to potable water, in order to incentivize its use for landscaping in golf courses, parks, and other outdoor facilities. In addition, use of efficient irrigation practices, which is required for recycled water use, can further reduce the cost of irrigation.

Water reuse is a tried-and-true, cost-effective strategy for increasing the amount of reliable and drought-resilient water supply to northern San Diego County.

Irrigation Tips & Best Management Practices With Recycled Water

An efficient, properly maintained, and calibrated irrigation system should follow an irrigation schedule based on seasonal water needs with separate irrigation zones for different plant types.
Avoid spray-wetting of salt-sensitive plant foliage. Drip irrigation, rather than overhead irrigation, will minimize foliar injury.
Aerate areas that have poor drainage.
Apply gypsum as a soil amendment to improve soil structure and water infiltration.
Avoid excessive run-off and overspray.

Landscape Care

Using recycled water provides numerous benefits to the landscaping community. Recycled water contains nutrients not found in potable water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can reduce the need for additional fertilizer throughout the year. It is also abundant and reliable, which helps reduce the need for importing water to the region. The use of recycled water also requires adjusting practices to protect soil and plant health. Salts can build up in the plant root zone, affecting the growth and health of plants. To mitigate this, proper soil drainage and watering practices need to be implemented for long-term landscaping viability. Follow the links below for additional information on adjusting landscaping practices when using recycled water.

Use Requirements

Contact your local water retail agency for specific use requirements. All sites must have plans developed and submitted through the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) for review and approval. Prior to receiving recycled water, a coverage and cross connection test must be completed with DEH.

Recycled water should be limited to the areas designated and approved for recycled water. Ensure no runoff or overspray from the irrigation system. Drinking fountains and designated outdoor eating areas, including chairs and benches, must be clear from water spray, mist, or runoff. All irrigation valves and outlets must be tagged as recycled water to notify the public and employees that the water is not intended for drinking. Use purple colored piping and appurtenances, or materials distinctively wrapped with purple tape, for repairs, retrofits, and new installations. Use only quick couplers that are unique to the recycled water system on portions of the recycled water piping system that is accessible to the public. Recycled water piping system shall not include any hose bibs. Ensure that no physical connection exists between any recycled water system and any separate system conveying potable water. All spray heads must indicate recycled water use.

Designate a trained Recycled Water Site Supervisor. Site Supervisor training is offered monthly by the City of San Diego and may be offered by your local water agency. A nominal registration fee includes learning materials and a site supervisor identification card.


Salinity Management Guide
Landscaping Irrigation with Recycled Water
Recycled Water and Its Role in Sustainable Water Use