Image of cracked ground.

Alameda County: What We Are Doing

Public Works Agency Upgrades Infrastructure, Changes Practices to Conserve Water

Equipment upgrades and new maintenance practices have resulted in water use reduction in excess of 55% when comparing the most recent billing cycle to the corresponding 2013 cycle. These changes include:

  • Discontinued use of potable water for roadway median turf irrigation and in the process of replacing turf medians with drought-tolerant landscaping
  • Reduced watering schedules for corporation yards, roadway medians, and parkway landscaping to levels at, or below, those mandated by utility
  • Installed non-potable water source at Dublin corporation yard for irrigation of all landscaping
  • Began using non-potable water for daily field operations where permitted and available
  • Reduced washing of vehicles at corporation yards by at least 50%

The County also has bolstered design standards and requirements for new construction projects. These include:

  • Landscape elements are designed in accordance with Bay Friendly practices and in accordance with the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO). Sample water conservation practices include planting native, drought tolerant plants, using alternative watering methods, and placing mulch to reduce water loss from plants. Two projects to date (Stanley Boulevard and Grant Avenue) have received Bay Friendly Certifications from
  • Sources of recycled water for landscape irrigation are sought for irrigation water if available - recycled water is used on the Stanley Boulevard Project
  • Water efficient irrigation methods such as drip irrigation, driwater, and deep watering methods are utilized where appropriate to conserve water.
  • Replacement of turf landscaping. Landscaping along Norbridge Avenue in Castro Valley between Redwood Road and Castro Valley Boulevard will be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping and removal of all spray irrigation as mandated by State AB 1881. Watering of the turf on median at Norbridge Avenue has been suspended.

County Service Areas are also stepping up to the challenges, including:

  • Reduced irrigation of landscaping in the Five Canyons County Service Area. Yearly reduction has been approximately 30% per year from 2012 to 2014 with an overall reduction of 52% of water usage. Reduction was accomplished by repair and replacement of all valves and limiting days and times for irrigation.
  • Reduced domestic water usage in the Castlewood County Service Area by mandating installation of meters, setting a standard allocation per connection, and charging for water above the allocated amount. These measures accounted for a 29% reduction of water usage between Calendar year 2013 and 2014.

We Are Enforcing Codes and Ordinances, including:

  • Water conservation directive issued by the Governor-- Emergency Building Standards for Outdoor Landscape Irrigation signed on June 1, 2015.
  • Chapter 17.64, Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance that was adopted in 2010 by the Board of Supervisors in response to Assembly Bill AB 1881. This ordinance requires a project applicant to complete a water efficient landscape worksheet and a soil management report to create drought resistant soil and plants, reduce runoff and encourage healthy plant growth. These were required for both public and private projects that meet a certain square footage of irrigated landscaping.
  • The current 2013 California Plumbing Code that regulates the Greywater system in Chapter 16, Recycled/Reclaimed water in Chapter 16A, and Rainwater in Chapter 17. The regulations in these chapters have detailed requirements in design, review and approval by the local jurisdiction, water quality and quantity, discharge, operational, construction materials, Health Dept approval and etc. The next Building Code adoption cycle will be in late 2016. Unless there will be another emergency code adoption about water conservation – such as the Emergency Building Standards for Outdoor Landscape Irrigation signed by the Governor on June 1, 2015, we will only enforce the current codes.

Photo of Alameda County Juvenile Center drought-friendly landscaping
Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, San Leandro, CA, Photo by John Swain

General Services Agency Designs Efficient County Facilities and Landscapes, Enhances Efforts to Conserve Water

We have an ongoing commitment to create drought-resistant landscaping with native plants that attract natural species and reduce operating costs. Examples include:

  • Adopted Bay-Friendly Landscaping Resolution in 2008 to affirm Alameda County Board of Supervisors' commitment to creating and maintaining drought-resistant, low maintenance landscapes. Certified 100% of County gardeners as Qualified Landscape Professionals in Bay-Friendly landscape maintenance practices.
  • Designed the LEED® Gold certified Castro Valley Library (2009) and the Platinum certified Ashland Youth Center (2013) with Bay-Friendly drought resistant landscapes to increase beauty and reduce water usage and maintenance costs.
  • Replaced 9,000 square feet of water-hungry grass and 5,000 square feet of ivy with over 100 native and drought-tolerant species in Hayward. Changed out inefficient spray-irrigation system with on-surface drip emitters.
  • Replaced turf grass with drought-tolerant plants, native fescue grass, and sheet mulch at properties in Hayward and Oakland to reduce exterior water use 30% to 50%.

Landscaping and grounds crews are doing their part to reduce outdoor water use with creative solutions, including:

  • Extending the use of recycled water for irrigation at the Santa Rita Jail and surrounding buildings in Dublin.
  • Using dry methods of cleanup whenever possible on hardscapes and plazas at 16 County facilities located in downtown Oakland. When situations require water for hygienic cleanup, staff and contractors use grey water where available.
  • Exploring technologies such as DriWater, potable water that is held in solid form and applied to young plants, to establish native plantings that will not require supplemental irrigation.
  • Incorporating water saving practices on conventional landscaping to reduce water usage by applying compost over turf grass and chipped wood mulch to vegetated areas to reduce evaporation and to create sturdier plants.

County staff are implementing innovative water saving technologies at new and existing buildings to reduce water use, including:

  • Completed a comprehensive $2.6 million water efficiency project at Santa Rita Jail in 2010, upgrading to low-flow toilets, urinals, showers, and faucets, incorporating water-smart irrigation, and adding new flush valve controllers to minimize excessive flushing. This project saves an estimated 77 million gallons of water and $400,000 in taxpayer funds annually.
  • Completed water efficiency project at Glen Dyer Jail in Oakland in 2014, which is on track to save over 9 million gallons annually.
  • Upgrading Santa Rita Jail Cooling Tower to save 1.4 million gallons annually.
  • Transitioned from onsite car washing of the 2000-car vehicle fleet to washing at a local car wash that uses recycled water. Switched from regularly scheduled car washes to washing only as needed.

The General Services Agency is training staff and shifting operational practices to embrace water conservation. Here are some of the steps taken:

  • Reprogrammed all irrigation controllers at County facilities to meet the California Governor's Executive Order for limiting landscape watering.
  • Conducted targeted training for County gardeners on drought measures, drip irrigation, and integrated pest management methods to create and maintain beautiful, drought-resistant landscapes.
  • Trained County gardeners on pollution prevention and set contract requirements for contractors consistent with the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association's Pollution Prevention Program.
  • Set up monthly water bill audits as well as leak detection strategies to identify irrigation line leakage.
  • Sent drought emergency action alerts to all County employees with steps they can take to save water at work and at home.

Photo of bay friendly landscaping, bee on flower

Back To The Top