Drought – Frequently Asked Questions

We are now in Stage 4 of this plan, designed to reduce our city’s water usage by 30% through mandatory potable water use restrictions. The restrictions below listed with a were updated on August 1, 2022.


  • Limited outdoor watering schedule reduced to two times per week –  overnight Tuesday and Saturday from 7:00 pm. to 8:00 am.
  • * Planting restrictions:
    • Residential water customers permitted to plant, including food gardens (with the below exception)
    • Moratorium on installation on high-water use turf.
    • Planting is not encouraged during the summer months
    • Additional planting restrictions for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional (CII) customers:
      • No planting or replanting allowed that requires potable water
    • Additional planting restrictions for new development:
      • Planting is permitted between November 1 and April 30.
        • Exception for stormwater treatment features.
        • Exception for mitigation plantings required by regulatory agencies.
  • All hoses must be equipped with a hose-end nozzle.
  • Water users are reminded to fix leaks and eliminate water waste (this step is required even when we are not in a drought, per Petaluma Municipal Code) 
  • No application of potable water to sidewalks, driveways, buildings, structures, patios, parking lots, or other hard surfaced areas, except in cases where health and safety are at risk.
  • No vehicle washing at home – commercial car washes only.
  • * No operating non-recirculating ornamental water fountains and water features, including decorative lakes and ponds.
  • No irrigating turf on public medians.
  • Pool and spa covers are required by the Petaluma municipal code to be covered during non-business hours or while not in use.
  • * Moratorium on the issuance of permits for new pools and spas.
  • For Schools, Parks, and LADs – limited outdoor watering schedule two times a week – overnight Monday and Thursday between 7 pm to 8 am.
  • * Homeowner’s Associations are prohibited from penalizing homeowners who reduce or eliminate the watering of vegetation or lawns during a declared drought emergency, and from requiring a homeowner to reverse or remove water-efficient landscaping that has been installed in response to a drought emergency once a drought emergency is concluded.


  • Water served in restaurants by request only.
  • Operators of hotels and motels to provide guest with option of choosing to have towels and linens laundered daily.
  • Street sweepers must use recycled water for street cleaning.
  • * Planting restrictions for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional (CII) customers:
    • No planting or replanting allowed that requires potable water
    • Moratorium on installation on high-water use turf.
    • Food gardens permitted.


  • * Planting restrictions for new development:
    • Planting is permitted between November 1 and April 30.
      • Exception for stormwater treatment features.
      • Exception for mitigation plantings required by regulatory agencies.
    • Moratorium on installation on high-water use turf.
    • Food gardens permitted.
  • * Moratorium on the issuance of permits for new pools and spas.


  • Recycled water must be used for dust control when available.
  • Number of recycled water haulers permitted to use recycled water for purposes other than construction to be determined by City Manager.
  • Potable water meters for construction limited to use for water line hydrostatic testing and chlorination. Water meters for construction will be evaluated on case-by-case basis.


  • No new water hauler accounts permitted to purchase potable water (or as determined by City Manager.) The Santa Rosa Plain Drought Resiliency Project is exempt from this provision.
  • Current potable water hauler accounts will not be allowed to haul more than current allocation, and load accounts will be monitored for monthly usage.


  • Commercial, industrial, institutional non-functional turf must not be watered. Exceptions apply.
    • Effective June 16, 2022, commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) non-functional turf must not be irrigated in California pursuant to recently adopted State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) regulations. Homeowners Associations’ common areas, unless it meets one of the other exemptions listed below, are included in this turf irrigation ban.
    • The State has defined non-functional turf as, “Turf that is solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events.”
    • The State Water Board’s regulation states that some turf areas are exempt from the turf irrigation ban. The CII turf may still be watered after June 10, 2022 if the property owner or account holder determines that one or more of the following is true:
      • The turf is used for human recreation, civic purposes, sports or play.
      • The turf is irrigated with recycled water.
      • The turf is irrigated with non-potable water (water that is not permitted for use as a drinking water supply).
      • The turf is on the same valve as at least one tree or perennial non-turf plantings.
      • The turf is at a residential location, not at a commercial, industrial, or institutional location. The exception to this is common areas in Homeowners Associations sites. Unless one of the above exemptions applies, HOA common areas are included in this turf irrigation ban.
    • This emergency regulation adopted under Water Code section 1058.5 may remain in effect for up to one year, unless rescinded earlier, or extended by the State Water Board.
    • Please go to the State Water Board’s Water Conservation Emergency Regulations webpage for more information: bit.ly/conservationreg.

Similar to water suppliers of a certain size in California, the City of Petaluma is required to maintain a plan to ensure we will meet water needs over the next 20 years. This plan, updated every 5 years, is called the Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP). In addition to planning for normal water years, the UWMP includes projections for drought conditions, like those we are experiencing now. These conditions are addressed through a multi-stage Water Shortage Contingency Plan. We are now in Stage 4 of the City’s Amended 2020 Water Shortage Contingency Plan, designed to reduce our city’s water usage by 30% through mandatory restrictions.

Yes. In April 2021, both Governor Newsom and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors declared a drought emergency in Sonoma County. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) reported that 95% of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions and has called upon all water users to begin saving water.

On Sept. 13, 2021, our City Council passed a resolution proclaiming a Local Drought Emergency in Petaluma. This proclamation empowers the City to access resources that would not otherwise be available to help address the current extreme drought conditions, access help from outside agencies, and open us to reimbursement for emergency costs.

To promote water conservation, the SWRCB approved emergency regulations that were enacted statewide beginning January 18, 2022. The emergency regulations will be in effect for one year and include prohibitions on potable water use such as washing impervious areas and  decorative  fountains, lakes, or ponds.


  • All new development is subject to building codes that require water efficiency (indoor and outdoor).
  • Currently, new development is not allowed to install landscaping.

City Parks and Facilities:

  • Installing water-efficient toilets and faucets
  • Reduced Watering 1-2x per week
  • Hand-watering trees
  • Cut irrigation to all grass playfields that use potable (non-recycled) water

Water Conservation Programs:

  • Reduction Plans – Customers with high water use placed on a mandatory reduction plan.
  • Mulch Madness – Qualified residents will receive free sheet mulching supplies and irrigation conversion kits.
  • Water-Wise Housecalls – A water conservation expert will visit your property and provide advice on how to save water.
  • Rebates – Special rebates are offered for high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers (residential and commercial).
  • Water Waste Patrol – Daily patrols/response to reports of water waste.

Recycled Water Program:

  • We are finding ways to store more recycled water for use throughout the year (the City’s Ellis Creek Property, local farms, etc.).
  • We continue to explore opportunities for using recycled water throughout the City, further offsetting potable water use.

As of January 18, 2022, potable water use for washing down sidewalks, driveways, buildings, structures, patios, or other hard surfaced areas is prohibited, except sanitation.

Petaluma’s recycled water program does not currently offer service to residential customers. The recycled water we do create is fully contracted to long-term existing customers that provide a critical service to the City during wet years. To implement a residential program, we would first have to adjust our program, get approvals from oversight bodies, and expand our plant to generate more recycled water. However, we can provide advice and support to help our residents maintain their landscaping during the mandatory water restrictions.

Some water agencies are offering their recycled water to residential customers. Unfortunately, Petaluma is not able to do that at this time. 

Petaluma’s recycled water program is fully contracted to long-term, existing customers that provide a critical service to the City during wet years. Implementing a residential program would involve adjusting our program, getting approvals from oversight bodies, and then expanding our plant to generate more recycled water. This process would take many months, if not years.

With this in mind, we encourage our residential water customers to try other ways to reduce their landscape water use, while still keeping their garden and (hopefully, drought-tolerant) yards looking beautiful. This includes putting in an efficient drip irrigation system, watering in the evening or early morning, and choosing plant varieties that need less water.

You may notice some parks around town turning brown while some stay green. Why?

  • We have turned off water at 26+ of our highest usage parks (these will turn brown)
  • We have drastically reduced use at many parks to conserve water while preserving trees (grass at these parks may remain partially green)
  • We are utilizing recycled water to irrigate 5 parks (these parks will stay green)

The Stage 4 Drought Mandates are in effect beginning9/13/21.

The population of California (like the rest of the world) is growing. In order to ensure there is enough housing for everyone to live affordably, the State of California determines projected population numbers then estimates how many housing units must be created to meet the housing demand. The State then calls upon cities to help, allocating each city a number of housing units they must create to support the growing population (this is known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation). 

Simply put, Petaluma, like all other cities in California, is required by the State to create housing units. The number of units changes as the State’s population projections change, but we must always follow their direction or we run the risk of the State revoking our land use powers – which would mean the State could decide what can and cannot be built here. 

Petaluma’s General Plan and Urban Water Management Plan help us project and prepare for future water use, including use associated with new housing units. We plan far in advance and have back-up plans in place for droughts, which is a recurring condition in our region. Some of these back-up plans include calling on our community to help conserve water, expanding treatment and distribution of recycled water, and reliance on groundwater supplies when surface water allocations are curtailed. 

Furthermore, to assure that the City of Petaluma has sufficient water supplies to meet increased water demand, the General Plan (Petaluma’s roadmap for growth) requires routine monitoring of water supplies against actual use and evaluation for each new development project (Policy 8-P-4). 

Additionally, all new development is subject to the latest building code standards, which require water efficiency for indoor and outdoor water uses. The City also imposes a Landscape Water Use Efficiency Ordinance, which minimizes water use for irrigation.   

You can view our 2020 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) and Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP) here City of Petaluma Water Delivery and Quality – Learn More.

These mandates will be enforced and violations are subject to fines of up to $1,000. Please see our violation procedure and fine schedules below (Petaluma Municipal Code Section 15.17.100).

  1. Customers in violation of Stage 4 requirements or PMC Chapter 15.17 will receive a written or verbal warning and order that the violation be corrected within a reasonable time. Seventy-two hours from notice of violation shall be considered a reasonable time for correction.
  2. The City may install a flow-restricting device on the service line.
  3. The City may levy a water waste fine to the customer. 1st violation: $100, 2nd violation: $500, 3rd violation, $1,000
  4. The City may shut off water service and charge the customer for reconnection. Service shall not be reinstated until verified by the City that the violation has been corrected and all charges and fees have been paid.

The following water use restrictions are enforced year-round. For a complete list of water use restrictions please refer to the Petaluma Municipal Code (Petaluma Municipal Code) Section 15.17.070.  

  • Washing of hard-surfaced areas by direct hosing unless equipped with a shutoff nozzle. 
  • Escape of water through breaks or leaks within the customer’s plumbing or private distribution system for any substantial period of time. 
  • Irrigation in a manner or to the extent that allows runoff of water or over-spray of the areas being irrigated. 
  • Washing cars, boats, trailers, or other vehicles, equipment, and machinery directly with a hose not equipped with a hose-end shutoff nozzle. 
  • Irrigating landscape during or within 48 hours of measurable rainfall. 
  • The irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians. 
  • Using water for non-recycling water features. 
  • Swimming Pool and Spa Covers – Outdoor swimming pools and spas are to be covered during non-business hours or while not in use. 

If you know where the leak is, call a professional or fix the leak in a timely manner. According to the EPA, 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more a day. Common leaks include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. Fixing these leaks or hiring someone to help you can save you at least 10% on your water bill and save water from being wasted. 

If you do not know where the leak is coming from contact the Water Department at (707) 778-4546 and one of our Water Customer Service Representatives can check your meter for leaks.  For step-by-step instructions on how to check your meter, please click HERE.


We encourage residents to report water waste in their area. Common examples of water waste are from irrigation systems such as: broken irrigation, overspray, run-off, and improper timing. If you see water waste, please let us know. To report water waste please call 707-778-4507 or email [email protected] 

For large leaks and water emergencies please call 707-778-4546. 

You can also report these issues as well as others online at cityofpetaluma.org/issues

Petaluma purchases water from Sonoma Water. For more information on Sonoma Water supply and water shortage reservoirs levels, please visit sonomawater.org/drought.

Turning off your irrigation, or significantly reducing your irrigation is an easy way to have big water savings. If you are unable to stop irrigating your landscape, the following steps can help with reducing outdoor water use: 

  • Thoroughly check your irrigation system to ensure there are no breaks, leaks, or water waste occurring when it is on or off.  
  • Set your irrigation to only run between the new restricted watering schedule: overnight Tuesday and Saturday between 7pm and 8am. 
  • Reassess your irrigation program weekly. Turn off irrigation in cool weather or when it rains.  
  • Use shorter run times to allow water to fully soak into the landscape and to reduce runoff.
  • Use mulch to retain moisture. 
  • For free weekly irrigation schedule recommendations during non-drought periods, please visit srcity.org/3446/Watering-Recommendations

The City of Petaluma offers many programs, rebates, and resources to help Petaluma residents save water. For information on any of the below programs, rebates, or to request any items, please call 707-778-4507 or email [email protected] 

Water Saving Rebates: 

  • Residential High-Efficiency Toilet (HET) rebates – If you have a toilet that flushes 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or more you can qualify for up to a $150 rebate to replace your older toilet with a HET. For more information, please visit: CityofPetaluma.org/Toilets 
  • Commercial High-Efficiency Toilet and Urinal rebates – Businesses can qualify for up to a $260 rebate for each older bathroom fixture that is replaced with a high-efficiency toilet or urinal.  Please call 707-778-4507 or email [email protected] for more information.  
  • High- Efficiency clothes washer rebates – Replace a top- loading clothes washer with a qualifying front- loading washer and receive a $75 rebate. For information on qualifying washers and a rebate application please visit: CityofPetaluma.org/Washers 

Water Saving Programs: 

  • Mulch Madness Program – A free turf conversion program for residents and businesses who want to transform their water thirsty lawns to a drought tolerant mulched landscape. This program includes free sheet mulching supplies (compost, cardboard, mulch) and delivery, as well as irrigation conversion kits for residential accounts. To learn how to qualify please visit: CityofPetaluma.org/Mulch 
  • Water-Wise HouseCall Program – This is a personalized program to help you use water more efficiently both inside and outside your home. With each Water-Wise HouseCall, a trained water efficiency professional will assess your current water usage and outline the best and most practical ways to maximize water savings. Due to Covid-19 restrictions our conservation staff cannot enter homes but can help with outdoor areas (irrigation checks, water schedules, check your meter) and also walk you through how to do an indoor leak inspection. Water-Wise HouseCalls can be performed in-person or on the phone. For more information, please visit: CityofPetaluma.org/WaterWise 
  • Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Leak Kits – Learn how to check for leaks in your home with a FREE DIY Leak Kit. Each kit includes easy to use instructions, a practical plumbing handbook, toilet dye tablets, and more. Available to Petaluma water customers by request: call 707-778-4507 or email [email protected] For more information, please visit: CityofPetaluma.org/free-water-conservation-devices

Stage 4 will be in place until water supply levels recover or until water shortage conditions become worse and the City implements Stage 5 or higher of the WSCP to reduce the gap in water supply and customer water use.

No. The 30% reduction target for Petaluma is Citywide.  Petaluma shall reduce its overall water use by 30% compared to the average of 2020 consumption. Petaluma’s target is not applied to each individual customer, but to the City as a whole. Individual water customers are asked to conserve water, comply with mandated restrictions, take advantage of the City’s water conservation rebate programs, and eliminate and report water waste.

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