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Net Blue: Model Ordinance

The Net Blue project team, with the advice of its Project Advisory Committee, developed a template for a model ordinance that requires or incentivizes offsetting the impact of new development's water use via water efficiency measures. The Environmental Law Institute, one of Net Blue’s project partners, led the work on developing the model ordinance. Building on AWE’s initial research report, Water Offset Policies for Water-Neutral Community Growth, ELI did the following:

  • Analyzed the legal language used in existing water offset ordinances;
  • Identified potentially useful supplemental language in other ordinances;
  • Assessed a variety of institutional configurations that may influence the adoption and implementation of a water offset ordinance; and
  • Examined legal opportunities for and constraints on expanding the concept to new places. 
New Urbanism DevelopmentThe final work product resulted in a model ordinance worksheet, a user’s guide, and three examples of customized ordinances. Due to the variety of circumstances that occur in a county, municipality, or utility, and the diversity of legal constraints and authorities that can dictate the form of such an ordinance, a “one size fits all” approach does not work in this context. Thus, the model ordinance is in the form of a dynamic worksheet, developed in consultation with land use law experts, municipal planners, and experienced developers, to ensure its practicality, accuracy, and ease-of-use in customizing the ordinance for the needs of the community
  • Net Blue Draft Ordinance User Guide CoverThe Model Ordinance worksheet leads a user through the sections of the ordinance, and flags the decisions that need to be made by the user in order to develop a tailored product that addresses the specific challenges and circumstances of the locality. NOTE: the worksheet works best on Microsoft Word 2010.
  • The Model Ordinance User’s Guide details how the worksheet functions, explains the various cues, and provides tips for maximizing the potential of the worksheet.
  •  Three Net Blue ordinance examples demonstrate the diverse outputs of the worksheet and some of the many problems, actors, and constraints that it can accommodate.
To request the model ordinance worksheet, user guide, and example ordinances, click here.  
For more information, email
This flow chart depicts how an offset ordinance might be incorporated into a municipal or county Planning and Zoning process.
Net Blue ordinance chart