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Residential Water Submetering

new multi-unit apartment building

Water use in multi-family residential buildings, such as apartments and condominiums, makes up about 60 percent of water consumed by residential customers in San Francisco. Most of these buildings, however, do not meter each dwelling unit for water use and, therefore, tenants and condo owners may not be aware of how much water they are using and may be less inclined to conserve.

Residential Water Submetering At a Glance

To encourage water conservation by apartment renters by ensuring submetering in multi-family residential buildings.

Who Must Comply?
All multi-family residential projects applying for a site permit and new water service on or after January 1, 2018.

State Code
Water Code, Division 1, Chapter 8, Article 5, Sections 537-537.5 as added by Senate Bill 7

Effective Date
January 1, 2018

Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

New Service Installations
(415) 551-2900

In September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), which requires new multi-family residential buildings in California constructed after January 1, 2018 to include a submeter for each dwelling unit and to bill tenants in apartment buildings accordingly for their water use. To implement this law in San Francisco, the SFPUC, in coordination with the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and Department of Public Health (DPH), is required to ensure that new multi-family residential buildings are submetered before receiving water service. This web page contains information to help new construction projects comply with this requirement.

If you are a landlord or owner of a submetered multi-family residential building and are looking for information about billing tenants based on individual dwelling unit’s metered water use, READ MORE information from the California Apartment Association.

Does this requirement apply to my project?

Effective January 1, 2018, any customer applying for a site permit for a project that includes new construction of a multi-family residential structure; mixed-use residential and commercial structure; or condominiums (regardless of whether the individual dwelling units will be rented or owned) must comply with the SB 7 requirement. This requirement does not apply to projects that are only constructing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

In San Francisco, submeters will be required in all new multi-family residential buildings, regardless of whether the individual dwelling units will be rented or owned. For multi-family residential buildings that are exempt, see the Frequently Asked Questions. If you believe your project is exempt, please submit the Exemption Application Form.

How do I comply?

New building standards requiring the installation of submeters in multi-family residential buildings will be added to a future update of California Building Standards Code, which would take effect as soon as January 1, 2020 and be enforced by DBI. Until then, the requirement will be enforced by SFPUC per the Water Code (Division 1, Chapter 8, Article 5, Section 537-537.5).

Applicable projects in San Francisco must show in their site permit plans submitted to DBI that submeters will be installed. SFPUC staff will review the site plans (plan check) to verify inclusion of sufficient metering and will route the project application forward for approval of both the site permit and new water service connection. If the site plans do not include sufficient metering, SFPUC will contact the applicant to revise and resubmit its plans.

What do I do with the submeters after my project is approved?

Submeters shall comply with all laws and regulations governing their installation, maintenance, reading, billing, and testing, including, but not limited to, the California Plumbing Code. Before water service begins and prior to issuance of a Certificate of Completion and Occupancy from DBI, the installed submeters shall be inspected by DBI. Submeters used to bill tenants based on metered water use must be a legal-for-trade device which has been tested and certified for accuracy by a California County Sealer. Once they are installed, these meters must be registered with, and inspected by, the staff of the San Francisco County Sealer as a part of the SFDPH Weights and Measures Program.

Learn more about billing tenants based an individual unit’s metered water use from the California Apartment Association.

Do condominiums need to install submeters?

Yes. In San Francisco, submeters will be required in all new multi-family residential buildings, regardless of whether the individual dwelling units will be rented or owned. However, only apartment buildings will be required to bill tenants based on an individual unit’s metered water use. Should a condominium be converted into a rental apartment building in the future, the appropriate meters will already be in place to enable billing based on metered water use.

Need help?

Be sure to check the FAQs for frequently asked questions. If you have other questions about compliance with the Residential Water Submetering requirement, contact SFPUC Customer Services, New Service Installations at or (415) 551-2900.


Last updated: 8/23/2019 9:27:45 AM