The City of Moab is committed to conserving water to help ensure adequate water is available for the future of our community. Moab's state-mandated five-year Water Conservation Plan update was approved December 14, 2021. City Council passed one of the recommendations from that plan, a water-efficient landscaping code update, on September 12, 2023.
The landscape ordinance is a set of standards to support the design, installation, and maintenance of healthy landscapes suited for the Moab climate. Landscapes in enhance quality of life and provide space for recreation while improving the environment by purifying air and water. In Utah, approximately 60% of residential water use goes toward outdoor irrigation, but landscapes can use much less water while providing numerous benefits. The City's landscape ordinance intends to enhance our outdoor spaces by supporting water-wise landscapes, managing storm water, contributing to fire protection, preventing erosion, mitigating urban heat island effect, and creating habitat for native plants. The ordinance is summarized below, but Moab City Code (17.10) is the definitive place for complete information.
- When does it apply?
- Maintenance Requirements
- Landscaping Standards
- Moab-specific Resources
- Landscape Resources
Per the ordinance, existing landscapes are legally nonconforming and are not required to modify their landscape except under the following circumstances:
- Landscape Modifications must meet applicable standards outlined in the ordinance. For example, when replacing existing plants, the new plants may need to be on the plant list.
- Landscape Transformations of two thousand square feet (2000 sf) or more or comprising at least 50% of the landscape require the full landscape to comply.
- Additions and Exterior Remodels that require a building permit, level I site plan, or level II site plan must comply.
- New Developments, including newly constructed single-, two-family, and multi-family dwellings, must adhere to the ordinance.
Under the previous ordinance, property owners needed to maintain their landscaping, and this requirement still stands. The property owner is responsible for ensuring their landscape is living, clean, healthy, and well-maintained.
If a project requires a building permit or a site plan, then it will need to meet the new standards. All projects must meet general standards for living plant materials, artificial plants, and plant list. The rest of the standards depend on the type of project and, in the case of general landscape plans, choice. The required general standards are outlined below for quick reference. Full information and the rest of the general standards are in the Moab City Code 17.10, which is the definitive source for information.
- Living Plant Material
- At least 25% of the landscape must have living plants. Tree canopy can account for 15% of the 25%. (The remaining 10% would be other plants.)
- Tree Requirements: One tree is required per 40 feet of street frontage.
- Tree list: Newly planted trees must be selected from the City of Moab Approved Plant List
- Watering: New trees with medium to high water requirements must be irrigated, but low-water trees may be hand watered.
- Spacing: Trees shouldn't be too close to each other, powerlines, intersections, street signs, etc. for health, safety, and visibility. See the code for distances.
- Artificial Plants
- Artificial plants do not count in the 25% living plant requirement or the water budget.
- Choosing the right plants
- 100% of groundcovers must be chosen from the City of Moab Approved Plant List, which includes plants beneficial for our area.
- 90% of plants, forb, shrubs, trees must be from the City of Moab Approved Plant List.
- Plants found on the Grand County Noxious Weeds List are prohibited because they are harmful to our local environment.
- Exemptions and additions: Some plants are okay even if they aren't on the approved list.
- Spring bulbs that don't require extra water
- Food gardens
- Eligible plants may be added to the Approved Plant List by meeting the criteria and following the process in Appendix C of the landscaping ordinance.
- Cool Season Turf
- Water Features
- Irrigation System
- Landscape Water Budget
Resources for Moab City Code
The City has resources available to assist with landscape decisions associated with the new ordinance.
- Submission Worksheets — These worksheets are a beta release. Please report issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- General Landscape Plan, appropriate for exterior modifications to a structure that require a building permit
- Site Plan Reviews are required for the following types of projects (17.67.020):
- All new development except single-household, two household, twin home, and multi-household dwellings under six units
- Remodeling of a commercial development with an addition of 2000 sq.ft. or more of an existing structure; or
- A use change involving an addition of 2000 sq.ft. or more to the finished square footage of an existing structure.
- Level I Landscape Plan, appropriate for projects that require a Level I application
- Level II Landscape Plan, appropriate for projects that require a Level II application
- Approved Plant List
- Water Budget Calculator — This link will download a spreadsheet for personal use.
- Live Plant Material Calculator — Coming spring 2024
- Have questions? We have answers in the FAQs.
Additional Assistance & Incentives:
- Utah Landscape Conversion Incentive Program, which offers money for replacing turf with water-efficient landscaping is available to qualifying Moab residents with the this ordinance. *Do not alter the landscape before consulting the program. It will disqualify you from this rebate.*
- An Urban and Community Forestry Grant was awarded to Moab City in 2023. This will assist residents with education and trees for planting, likely starting in the spring of 2024.
- The State of Utah posts other incentives online at https://utahwatersavers.com.
- USU Extension Turfgrass Cultivars for Utah
- Utah Weekly Lawn Watering Guide
- Slow the Flow Indoor Water Conservation
- Slow the Flow Outdoor Conservation
- USU Extension Drought Resources
- USU Extension Fire Protective Landscaping