By Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP
As California endures the driest first three months of a year in the state’s recorded history, and simultaneously enters a third year of drought, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order (Order) to strengthen conservation efforts. According to the Administration’s press release, the Order calls “on local water suppliers to move to Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which require locally-appropriate actions that will conserve water across all sectors and directing the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at businesses and institutions.”
The Governor is “encouraging suppliers, where appropriate, to consider going above and beyond the Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, activating more ambitious measures [and]… has ordered state agencies to submit funding proposals to support the state’s short- and long-term drought response, including emergency assistance to communities and households facing drought-related water shortages, facilitating groundwater recharge and wastewater recycling, improvements in water use efficiency, protecting fish and wildlife, and minimizing drought-related economic disruption.”
Today’s Order also includes the following provisions:
- Ensuring Vulnerable Communities Have Drinking Water
- Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately.
- Safeguarding Groundwater Supplies
- Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85 percent of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought.
- Streamlines permitting for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come.
- Protecting Vulnerable Fish And Wildlife
- Expedites state agency approvals for necessary actions to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival.
- Preventing Illegal Water Diversions
- Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring.