Plumbing Fixture Retrofit Requirements

In July 2013 the County updated its water conservation ordinance to better preserve the county’s water resources by reducing consumption. This ordinance applies to properties located in the unincorporated Santa Cruz County area (outside the City limits of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, and Watsonville) that are not served by the City of Santa Cruz, City of Watsonville, or other public water suppliers who administer similar water conservation programs. All properties at the time of sale must retrofit water fixtures that do not meet high efficiency standards.

Summary of ordinance
All existing residential, commercial, and industrial buildings that use water in showers, toilets, and urinals, prior to transferring title or sale, shall be retrofitted exclusively with high efficiency plumbing fixtures that restrict maximum water flow from showerheads to 2 gallons per minute and reduce the amount of water used in toilets to 1.28 gallons per flush and urinals to .5 gallons per flush. Existing toilets using 1.6 gallons per flush or less do not need to be replaced, they are exempt from the program. The seller shall be responsible for complying with the retrofit requirements and for obtaining a water conservation certificate unless the buyer and the seller agree to transfer responsibility to the buyer.

The Soquel Creek Water District ended its Retrofit on Resale program effective June 1, 2018. A list of properties certified by the District’s program between February 2014 and July 2018 can be found here:

Soquel Creek Water District Retrofit Certified Properties

Properties included on this list are considered currently certified and a new certificate does not need to be provided to the County for the sale of these properties. Otherwise, properties served by the Soquel Creek Water District outside the City of Capitola must submit a water conservation certificate to the County under these requirements.

How to obtain a water conservation certificate

  1. Prior to sale of property, provide a disclosure form notifying the buyer of the requirements of this chapter.
  2. Check “Santa Cruz EHS Files” for a water conservation certificate completed after June 2013:
    1. Click “All Documents”
    2. Enter property address or parcel number (APN)
    3. If a certificate is on file dated after June 2013, a new certificate does not need to be provided to the County for sale of the property.
  3. Retrofit the water fixtures to comply with the high efficiency plumbing standards.
  4. Have the fixtures inspected by real estate agent, plumber, contractor or other qualified professional and complete and sign the Water Conservation Certification Form.
  5. No inspection of fixtures by County staff is required.
  6. Submit Forms:  

E-mail signed forms to

OR mail forms to

Santa Cruz County Environmental Health       
Water Conservation Program        
701 Ocean St Rm. 312 Santa Cruz, CA 95060

High Efficiency Plumbing Standards

  • Shower Head: 2 gal/min
  • Toilet: 1.28 gal/flush
  • Urinal: .5 gal/flush

Transfer of responsibility
Before a change of ownership, the seller and buyer of any property may agree to transfer responsibility for retrofit requirements to the buyer. In the event the buyer agrees to assume responsibility for retrofitting, the buyer shall complete the retrofit within ninety calendar days from the date of the sale. Before the time of the sale, the seller and buyer shall complete the following procedures:

  1. Both the seller and buyer shall sign the Retrofit Responsibility Transfer Form certifying that the buyer has assumed responsibility for the retrofit.
  2. The seller shall file the signed transfer of responsibility to retrofit form with the County and include it in the real estate transfer documentation in lieu of the water conservation certificate.
  3. Submit Forms
  4. Upon completing the retrofit, the buyer shall complete the Water Conservation Certification Form and Mail to the Santa Cruz County Water Conservation Program to verify compliance. Water conservation certificates shall be maintained on file at Environmental Health Services in order to provide future verification that high efficiency plumbing fixtures have been installed. Environmental Health can e-mail copies to interested parties.

Real Estate Agent Responsibility

Disclosure Form:  The seller and/or the seller’s real estate agent or broker shall give written notice to the buyer of the requirements of this chapter within a reasonable time prior to the transfer of title. The statement shall be either included in the receipt for deposit, in a real estate transaction, an addendum to the real estate transfer disclosure statement, or a separate document. A signed copy of the water conservation certificate and written notice of retrofit requirements shall be included in the transfer documentation.

Exemptions:  Existing water efficient fixtures which use not more than 1.6 gallons per flush for toilets or 2.0 gallons per minute for showerheads. Structures which are recognized as historically significant or listed on a federal, state, or local historic registry are exempt from the requirements of this chapter when both of the following circumstances exist: authentic historic plumbing fixtures are presently in place in the structure; and the plumbing fixtures cannot be replaced by matching high efficiency fixtures.

Designation of public water supplier
The Health Services Agency Director may authorize a public water supplier which has adopted and implemented requirements at least as stringent as those contained in sections 7.69.040to administer the provisions of this Chapter within those portions of their services areas that are subject to this Chapter. Such authorization shall be established by a written agreement between the County and the public water supplier. The City of Santa Cruz Water Department and City of Watsonville are authorized to implement these requirements within their service areas. The County does not enforce retrofit requirements within the Cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Capitola, or Scotts Valley.

City of Santa Cruz Plumbing Fixture Retrofit Regulations 
City of Watsonville Program

Failure to Comply

If the seller fails to comply with the retrofit requirements as specified in Section 7.69.040, the buyer shall install the high efficiency plumbing fixtures within ninety days from the date of sale. Any seller who fails to comply with the requirements of this chapter is liable to the buyer in the amount of two hundred and fifty dollars for each fixture that does not comply with this chapter at the time of sale, or the actual costs of the buyer to comply with this chapter, whichever amounts are greater.

Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty of an infraction and be fined in accordance with the provisions of Section 1.12.040 of the Santa Cruz County Code. Each day such a violation is committed or permitted to continue shall constitute a separate offense and shall be punishable as such.

Text of the ordinances

Other point of Sale items