Agriculture, Water, and Energy

Zero Net Energy Neighborhood

The Energy Section has recently completed a Zero Net Energy Neighborhood project funded by a California Energy Commission grant.

About the CWWCP

On August 27, 2013, the Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 3246, the Paso Robles Groundwater (PRGWB) Urgency Ordinance (Urgency Ordinance), which required a 1:1 offset for new irrigated agriculture and new development dependent on a well in the PRGWB.  On October 8, 2013, the Board voted to extend the Urgency Ordinance for a total of two yeaers.  The PRGWB Urgency Ordinance expired on August 27, 2015.

 

On March 4, 2014, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Planning and Building to propose several amendments to the County General Plan and County Codes with the objective of developing a Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) that would substantially reduce groundwater extraction in groundwater basins that have been certified LOS III, provide a mechanism to allow new development and new or expanded irrigated agriculture to proceed in certified LOS III areas, and reduce the wasteful use of water in the county.

On October 27, 2015, the Board adopted Resolution 2015-288, adopting specific amendments to:

  • The Agriculture Element of the General Plan;

  • The Conservation and Open Space Element of the General Plan;

  • Title 8 (Health and Sanitation Code) of the County Code;

  • Title 19 (Building and Construction Ordinance) of the County Code;

  • Title 22 (Land Use Ordinance) of the County Code; and

  • Ordinance 3274 (County Fee Schedule)

These amendments implemented the water neutral new development and water waste prevention components of the proposed CWWCP.  Adoption of the resolution also created and implemented two additional County-run programs including a Plumbing Retrofit Program and a Turf Removal Incentive Program also known as “Cash for Grass.”

The first major component of the CWWCP is Water Neutral New Development (WNND).  WNND requires that all new urban and rural development and new irrigated agriculture in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) and all new urban and rural development in the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area offset new water use at a 1:1 ratio.  Offset requirements for new urban and rural development is implemented by generating credits through two primary methods: plumbing retrofits and the Cash for Grass program.  The proposed offset requirements for new urban and rural development in the PRGWB would have a sunset provision upon final approval of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan(s) (GSP(s)) by a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency or Agencies (GSA(s)) covering the entirety of the PRGWB, prepared pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  WNND also requires that, in the PRGWB (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin), all new or expanded irrigated agriculture offset new water use at a 1:1 ratio.  The proposed Agricultural Offset program is an implementation tool for the WNND irrigated agriculture offset requirement, and is intended to substantially reduce increases in groundwater extraction and lowering of groundwater levels in the PRGWB (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) only.  The proposed Agricultural Offset program has a sunset provision upon final approval of a GSP by a local GSA(s) covering the entirety of the PRGWB, prepared pursuant to SGMA.

The second major component of the overall CWWCP is the Water Waste Prevention (WWP) program.  The WWP program would apply to all existing and proposed urban and rural development within the unincorporated areas of the county where a water purveyor does not already have a similar ordinance (or other comparable program) in place.  Provisions to reduce agricultural water waste would be limited to clarifications of policies and implementation measures found in the Agriculture Element of the General Plan, which would include best management practices as well as implementation of an educational outreach program.

Cash for Grass

The Cash for Grass Program offers monetary incentives for property owners in the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area (NMWCA) and thePaso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB) who are seeking to remove irrigated turf and replace it with approved low water using plants and groundcover. 

Incentives are available to qualifying property owners on a first-come, first-served basis while funding is available.  The Program generates water savings credits that can be purchased by applicants from within the same groundwater basin who need to meet water neutrality requirements for new construction.  Funding availability is subject to change at any time.

Building Performance Training

Building Performance Training equips current and prospective building professionals to thrive in an evolving industry by providing free technical trainings, soft skills development, and certifications related to building science principles and systems for high performance buildings.

Los Osos Basin Plumbing Retrofit-On-Sale Program

The Retrofit-On-Sale (Title 8 Retrofit Certificate) is a requirement for all homes being sold in the Los Osos Groundwater Basin.  This includes homes that were built before 1994 and homes that were previously issued a Title 8 Retrofit Certificate.  The certificate is a formal County-approved document that certifies that the home being sold meets all retrofit requirements for the existing plumbing fixtures (toilets, showerheads, faucet aerators) in the home.

To view the Retrofit-On-Sale Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) please click here or scroll down to the FAQ section.

 

Codes and Standards

More Information Coming Soon. 

MWELO Irrigated Landscaping > 2,500 sqft

Any project requiring a permit, plan check, or design review with a new aggregate landscape of greater than 2,500 square feet must submit a Landscape Project Information packet and a Performance Based Compliance Package.  

 

Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor 

MWELO Section K requires an irrigation audit performed by a 3rd party certified landscape irrigation auditor (CLIA).

 

A searchable database of CLIA professionals is available on this website: https://lookforwatersense.epa.gov/pros/

Countywide Water Conservation Program

On October 27, 2015, the Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution 2015-288, which established the Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) in response to the declining water levels in the Nipomo Mesa (part of Santa Maria Groundwater Basin), Los Osos Groundwater Basin, and the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB). A key strategy of the CWWCP is to ensure that all new construction and new or expanded agriculture will offset its predicted water use by reducing existing water use on other properties within the same water basin.

MWELO Irrigated Landscaping 500 - 2,500 sqft

Any project requiring a permit, plan check, or design review with an aggregate landscape of 2,500 or less must comply with this ordinance by submitting a Landscape Project Information packet and Prescriptive Compliance Package. The package has two separate steps during the permitting and building process.

Energy & Climate Reports

Climate Change Adaptation Planning Report

2016 PACE Activity Report San Luis Obispo County

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

County of SLO ZNEN Feasibility Design and Implementation Study Final Report

Energy Wise Plan

Energy Wise Plan Executive Summary

Energy Wise Plan 2016 Update

Final Appendices A-L Central Coast CCA

Final Report Central Coast CCA Feasibility Study

Local Government Solar Energy Guide

The Duck Curve

 

New Construction

All new urban and rural development within the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservaton Area (NMWCA) or the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB) is required to offset new water use at a minimum 1:1 ratio through the purchase of water offset credits prior to construction permit issuance.  New structures may include but are not limited to single family dwellings, mobile homes, secondary units, guest houses, commercial buildings, and pools.  Offsets are not required for additions, replacement dwellings, and expansions of existing structures.  

If the property contains a domestic well, a water meter must be installed and a well meter inspection must be conducted. Property owners are required to keep records of monthly water usage, to be viewed by County staff only if the property is subject to a code enforcement case.​

For more information on policies and fees related to new construction within the NMWCA or the PRGWB, please choose one of the following:

 

PRGWB Groundwater Sustainability Plan

At this time, the Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan exempts residential water use of up to 2 acre-feet per year (2 AFY) per property from management actions such as pumping fees and pumping reductions.​

Click here to view the full Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan.​

Click here to join the mailing list to receive updates about the Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

Energy Code Connect

Energy Code Connect simplifies the energy code for public and private sector building professionals by offering a free Energy Code Coach service, targeted trainings, and regional forums.

NMWCA Plumbing Retrofit-On-Sale Program

The Retrofit-On-Sale (Title 8 Retrofit Certificate) is a requirement for all homes being sold in the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area (NMWCA).  This includes homes that were built before 1994 and homes that were previously issued a Title 8 Retrofit Certificate. The certificate is a formal County-approved document that certifies that the home being sold meets all retrofit requirements for the existing plumbing fixtures (toilets, showerheads, faucet aerators) in the home.

Home Energy Savings

Home Energy Savings helps eligible homeowners and renters save money by offering free and discounted energy efficiency upgrades including LED lighting, smart thermostats, heat pump water heaters, and much more.

Plumbing Retrofit Program

Residents living within the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area (NMWCA) or the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB) with higher water-using toilets, showerheads, and faucet aerators may be eligible to receive free water-efficient plumbing fixtures.  Participants are accepted on a first come, first-serve basis while funding is available.

The following fixtures are eligible for replacement:

  • Toilets that use more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf);

  • Showerheads that use more than 1.5 gallons per minutes (gpm); and

  • Faucet aerators that use more than 1 gpm.​

 

Older fixtures will be replaced with the following:​

  • Toilets will be replaced with new 1.28 gpf models;

  • Showerheads will be replaced with new 1.5 gpm or less models; and

  • Faucet aerators will be replaced with new 1 gpm models.

For more information on the Plumbing Retrofit Program, please call (805) 781-5600.

Industrial Hemp

Post-Construction Stormwater Management

The Department of Planning & Building is required to track the long-term operation and maintenance of post-construction stormwater control measures installed within the County’s Stormwater Management Area. The Central Coast Post-Construction Requirements order the County to establish operation and maintenance plans with private stormwater system owners. The Department records plans that comply with the Requirements, which document the existence of all structures and require maintenance and operation in perpetuity by any future owners.

Local Agency Management Program (LAMP)

The Local Agency Management Program (LAMP) develops minimum standards for the treatment and disposal of sewage through onsite wastewater treatment systems. The LAMP is the culmination of the actions required by Assembly Bill 885 and the State Water Resources Control Board to develop regulations and standards for onsite wastewater treatment systems. The County of San Luis Obispo LAMP is designed to protect surface water and groundwater from contamination while providing flexibility in design criteria in consideration of local conditions.

PRGWB - On-Site Agriculture Off-Set

An on-site offset clearance involves crop conversion on a single site with a single property owner.  A property owner may choose to apply for an on-site offset clearance when they are currently growing one crop but wish to switch to a different crop.  In some cases, the new crop might be able to cover more or less area while still maintaining the same projected water use.  Below is a brief list of requirements of on-site agriculture offsets, otherwise, Ordinance 3308 provides a complete guide for requirements of on-site agriculture offsets.

 

Los Osos Groundwater Basin

Information about programs within the Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) that apply to the area encompassing the Los Osos Groundwater Basin. 

PRGWB Wells - Agriculture

This service is for those applying for a new well to serve new or expanded irrigated crop production in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB), excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin.  Click here for more information on well standards.

Mining Designations

Mining Designation Amendments FAQ

Mining Designation Maps

Stormwater Management During Construction

The Department of Planning & Building administers state and federal pollution prevention policies for stormwater runoff, verifying that appropriate stormwater permits and plans are in place prior to the commencement of construction. Department staff is available to support applicants with determining which permits and plans are required and will oversee implementation of appropriate pollution control practices during construction.

Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (MWELO)

In response to Governor Brown’s Drought Executive Order EO B-29-15, the California Department of Water Resources updated the State’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) through expedited regulation.  Local agencies must adopt either the MWELO or their own equally effective ordinance by December 1, 2015. ​

On October 28, 2015, the Board of Supervisors of County of San Luis Obispo adopted Ordinance No. 3311 amending Title 19 of the San Luis Obispo County Code, the Building and Construction Ordinance, by adding new chapter 19.95, incorporating by reference the California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. ​

All new development projects with 500 sq. ft. or more landscaping area are subject to the new MWELO requirements.  Please use this flow chart to determine how the new landscaping standards apply to your project.​

For more information on MWELO, please click on the icons above.

Surface Mining Inspections

The State Office of Mine and Reclamation (OMR) requires the County to conduct annual mine inspections for all active mines within the unincorporated areas of the county. These inspections include on-site visits to ensure that the mines are operating within their approved boundaries and following the requirements of their approved reclamation plans.

Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area (NMWCA)

Information about programs within the Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) that apply to the area encompassing the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area (NMWCA).

These programs are funded by water offset fees applied to building permits for new structures in the NMWCA. These fees and programs are intended to keep a neutral water demand in the NMWCA by offsetting water use for new construction at a 1:1 ratio.​

Washer Rebate Program

The Washer Rebate Program offers monetary incentives for property owners in the Nimpomo Mesa Water Conservation Area or the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB) area who are seeking to remove their  high-water using clothes washer and replace it with an Energy Star certified clothes washer with an integrated water factor (IWF) of 3.2 or less.  Incentives are available to qualifying property owners on a first-come, first-served basis while funding is available.  More information on how to calculate the GPD savings between the old and new washers can be found within the Washer Rebate Program application. 

 

For information on the Washer Rebate Program, please choose the following:

Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB)

Information about programs within the Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) that apply to the area encompassing the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB). 

Williamson Act Administration

The Department of Planning & Building administers land conservation contracts under the Williamson Act, which provides a reduction of property taxes to owners of farmland and open-space land in exchange for a ten or 20-year agreement that the land will not be developed or otherwise converted to another use.

PRGWB Agriculture Off-Set

Recent policy updates

On April 6, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed planning staff to:

  • Develop a planting ordinance for the Paso Basin (defined using the Fugro boundary, excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) to be effective until 2045 with a two-tier framework.

    • Tier 1 exemption allowing plantings using 25 AFY of irrigation per site (defined as contiguous parcels under common ownership)

    • Tier 2 ministerial approval for plantings maintaining neutral water use on site with a 6-year lookback period

The ordinance is to NOT include a third tier discretionary permit requiring CEQA review; as a result, there is presumably no mechanism / option to approve / allow new plantings not falling within Tier 1 or Tier 2. 

  • Bring an ordinance amendment to extend the Agricultural Offset Requirements to June 1, 2022.

  • Include funding for a 14-month Limited Term Planner III position and EIR contract during the budget hearings scheduled for June 7-9, 2021.

On January 26, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors directed staff to return with a detailed budget impact analysis to develop a new land use policy to require planting permits for irrigated crops using water from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin until 2045 with a 3-tiered framework:

  • Tier 1: Exemption Clearance Permit for plantings using up to 25 AFY/site of irrigation

  • Tier 2: Ministerial Permit for plantings maintaining neutral water use with a 6-year lookback

  • Tier 3: Discretionary Permit with CEQA review for plantings that do not fall under Tier 1 or 2

 

On November 17, 2020, the Board of Supervisors adopted additional amendments to the Agricultural Offset Requirements to update the map of the area of severe decline. Approximately 37,000 acres were removed and no acreage was added. 

Click here for the certified ordinance. Click here for an interactive version of the map.

On August 18, 2020, the Board of Supervisors adopted amendments to the Agricultural Offset Requirements.

Click here for a summary and click here for the certified ordinance.

New or expanded irrigated crop production - Agricultural Offset Requirements

On October 27, 2015, the Board adopted Resolution 2015-288 that amended County Code (Title 22) to require new and/or expanded irrigated crop production to obtain an Agricultural Offset Clearance from the Department of Planning and Building to minimize further depletion of groundwater levels. On November 5, 2019, the Board amended Title 22 to extend the termination date of the Agricultural Offset Clearance requirement to January 1, 2022. Any Agricultural Offset Clearances that were conditionally approved and still active on December 5, 2019 will now terminate on January 1, 2022.

 

Within the Paso Basin, there is a subarea called the "area of severe decline" that has more stringent restrictions. Click here for a map.  If your property is in the Area of Severe Decline per the Land Use Ordinance, then your property is not eligible for the 5 AFY excemption for new irrigated crop production.

 

There are three main scenarios for how this ordinance may affect a property:

1. If there is existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date, the property can be replanted in the same crop type and acreage with an Ag Offset Exemption. Planting new or expanded crops would require an On-Site Offset Clearance showing the new crop would use the same amount of water as the existing crop, or less.

2. If there is not existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date and if the site is not within the "area of severe decline", new irrigated crop production may be allowed with a one-time Ag Offset Exemption to plant crops that use up to 5 acre-feet per year of water (e.g., 4 acres of vineyard).

3. If there is not existing irrigated crop production on site within the 5 years preceding the application date and if the site is within the "area of severe decline", then there are no options for new or expanded irrigated crop production under the current ordinance.​

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Residential Direct Install

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Resources

Links to helpful resources.

Septic System Operation and Maintenance

The Department of Planning & Building encourages property owners to regularly maintain their onsite wastewater treatment systems for optimal functioning. The Department provides forms for reporting the condition of systems and verifying system capacity for building expansions. This page also includes educational information and quick tips on the proper use of onsite wastewater treatment systems.

Tri-County Regional Energy Network

The Department of Planning & Building's Energy Section administers the Tri-County Regional Energy Network (3C-REN). To learn more about 3C-REN and its portfolio of regional energy efficiency programs, please click here

Well Standards

These Countywide well meter installation standards issued by the Department of Public Works apply to all well meters installed in the County, including domestic and irrigation wells.

Workforce Education and Training

More Information Coming Soon.