Monterey Peninsula Water Credits and their Importance When Buying or Selling a Home

Water Credits or Fixture Units Are An Important Part of a Home’s Value

We take water usage very seriously here on the Monterey Peninsula. In fact, we have a government authority that is in charge of water, called the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) which was formed in June of 1978.

To use water on the Monterey Peninsula, including Carmel, Carmel Valley, and Pebble Beach, one needs a permit from the MPWMD. You can’t install a water meter on a lot without a permit, nor can you remodel a home and increase the number of water fixtures without a permit from the MPWMD. This is in addition to permit and zoning requirements of the municipality.

First, determine if your property, or the property you are interested in purchasing, is within the district.

The district, indicated in green, includes the following municipalities:

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Del-Rey Oaks
  • Monterey
  • Pacific Grove
  • Seaside
  • Sand City
  • Monterey Peninsula Airport District
  • and portions of Unincorporated Monterey County including Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley

Why Do Some Homes Have Lots of Credits and Some Very Few?

Often I will walk into a home with a client and be faced with a confused look when I explain that this 2,800 square foot home is limited to 2 bathrooms while a 1,000 square foot home we just visited could have 3 bathrooms if the buyer wished to add one during a remodel. Why is this the case? The number of fixture units in a house is set the first time an MPWMD inspector tours the home. So, a small home with a lot of water fixtures (a laundry sink, a vegetable sink, a bar sink, extra large bathtub, even a bidet) will have more water for future remodels than a larger home with no extraneous water credits.

A basic full bath typically uses 4.7 water credits and a typical kitchen uses two. Fixture units can be reassigned. For example, a vegetable sink in the kitchen can be removed and replaced with a bar sink elsewhere in the home. A master bathroom can have two sinks without the second sink costing any units, and a large bathtub “costs” three units while a regular bath only “costs” two.

View a list of Residential Fixture Unit Counts here.

For Sale: 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 14-water credit home

When you buy a home, you are buying a finite number of water credits. The number of water credits available limits what you can do with the property–when it comes to adding bathrooms, sinks, or anything that uses water.

There are a few nuances to this process. First, a few years ago the MPWMD acknowledged that today it is reasonable for any house to have at least 2 bathrooms. So, under Ordinance 98, they will allow you to add a second bath to a one bath home, even if the one bath home lacks sufficient water credits for the second bath. A couple of key restrictions with Ordinance 98. First, you can’t then go on to add a half bath. The second bath is “free” but any additional bathroom fixtures cannot be added. Second, the one bath home can’t be new. You can’t build a one bath home this year and add a second bath under Ordinance 98 a few years from now.

There are also a few unique areas on the Peninsula with other alternatives. In Pebble Beach at the moment, it is possible to purchase water credits from the Pebble Beach Company.

Properties located in the former Water West System (a water distribution system now run by Cal-Am) in Carmel Valley are entitled to water from an allocation that transferred with the water system. If your property is in this area it is possible to petition and secure water credits.

Liberating Water Fixtures with Low Flow Appliances

Another option is to “liberate” a credit or two by switching to low flow appliances. For example, you can replace your current dishwasher (2.0 units) with a low flow dishwasher (1.5 units). This will leave you with .5 credits you can put elsewhere. You might also replace your washing machine (2.0 units) with an extremely efficient model (1.0 units). Before making a purchase decision based on your ability to “squeeze” water credits out of what is in the home, make sure you fully understand the process. Any low flow appliances require a permit from MPWMD and a deed restriction.

Questions and Resources

As is probably clear, there are many aspects of these water regulations that can impact a home’s value. Feel free to send me an email with questions, as answering any possible scenario in this post is impractical. If you are working with an architect and considering a remodel be sure to discuss the water fixture aspect with the architect. If the architect is from out of the area it is imperative that he or she contact the district.

If you have the Assessor Parcel Number (APN) for the homes you are considering it will allow you to contact the water district and determine the number of fixture units on the property. If you are already working with a Realtor, he or she should provide you with the water district report during your negotiations to purchase the home.

If you would like to talk about aspecific property, or the concept of water credits, drop me an email or give me a call.

Water regulations are constantly shifting. Make sure you fully understand what you can and can’t do on a given property. If you are planning a remodel talk directly to water management and ask your architect and contractor to explain the steps involved. If you are buying a home, make sure your Realtor understands water credits and provides you with the current rules and reports.

This entry was posted in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Seaside, Water Issues and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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