Water is a precious commodity here on the Monterey Peninsula. Despite our generous amount of rainfall from last winter, there are still many restrictions in place when it comes to real estate and securing water credit when buying, selling or improving a property.
What is the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District?
In 1978, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) was enacted by California law to oversee the conservation and usage of water here on the Monterey Peninsula. They serve approximately 112,000 people within the cities of 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, Carmel Highlands and Carmel Valley. MPWMD’s sources of revenue include property tax, user fees, water connection charges, investments, grants, permit fees and project reimbursements.
The Water Fixture Count
Whether you are buying a home, selling your home, or improving a property, understanding the way water credit works is an important aspect of real estate on the Monterey Peninsula. MPWMD assigns a “fixture count” to every parcel within their jurisdiction. This is usually done the first time a home is sold (after 1978), so because there are some homes that have not transferred title since that time, they may not have had a water inspection.
Once water management inspects the parcel for the first time and records the fixture count, it is a permanent record attached to that parcel. Different water features have different fixture counts assigned to them. A sink may count as 1 fixture unit, a washing machine may count as 2 fixture units, and a large oversized tub and shower may count as 3 fixture units. Every time the property title is transferred, MPWMD will come out to do a new inspection to insure the property complies with the fixture count assigned to the parcel.
Can I Install New Water Fixtures?
Making changes to water usage on a home is not as simple as just hiring a contractor and doing the remodel. Every new usage of water must be permitted. Currently, water management is not issuing permits for most intensification of residential usage. This means it can be difficult to get a permit to use more water than the home is currently allowed. There are a few exceptions — Ordinance 98 allows for any home built prior to 2001, that has only one bathroom, to add a second bathroom.
To get water for a real estate project in the Monterey Peninsula, you have 3 main options:
1.) You already have credit
The first step is always to call Water Management at (831) 658-5601. Give them your parcel number (or street address) and they will look up your property. They can tell you if you happen to have any extra unused water credit available on the parcel. They can also advise you about the options regarding your home and your ideas for a project.
2.) You can earn credit
There are ways to “free up” water credits in your home to be used elsewhere on the property. Again, you would want to contact water management at the number above. You can abandon an old usage — such as a permitted fountain or other water feature, a laundry room sink or bar sink — and apply that water credit towards installing a fixture elsewhere on the property.
Another way to earn credit for your next home improvement project is to replace old fixtures – such as an older toilet or dishwasher — with a new high-efficiency model. Again, contact water management first.
3.) You can purchase credit
If you don’t have credit, and can’t earn credit, there may be another option depending where you live. It may be able to get more water for a project when buying, selling or improving a home by purchasing the water. There are several private sources with water credit for sale (again, contact MPWMD first). For example, if you live within the Carmel River Watershed, there is water available for purchase through the Malpaso Water Company. Minimum purchase is $24,000 for 10 fixture units — enough to do a full 1-bath home with kitchen and laundry. There are also entitlements in the Seaside and Sand City areas, and Pacific Grove is working on freeing up some water for potential purchase.
Whether you are buying a home, listing your home for sale on the market, or looking to do a home-improvement project, keep in mind the importance of water usage rights on the Monterey Peninsula. Your real estate agent should keep you informed about water issues, and should order the water inspection from MPWMD for you whenever considering a potential transaction.
If you have any questions about water as it relates the sale or purchase of a home, or any other questions about real estate, feel free to call, text or email anytime and I would be happy to discuss this with you.