The State Water Board to Consider Proposed Emergency Water Conservation Regulations

On January 17 Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a drought emergency proclamation following three dry or critically dry years in California. Extreme drought now covers nearly 80 percent of the state and these conditions will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

More than 400,000 acres of farmland are expected to be fallowed, thousands of people may be out of work, communities risk running out of drinking water and fish and wildlife species are in jeopardy. Many communities are down to 50 gallons a day or less per person for basic sanitation needs. With our inability to predict the effect of the next rainy season, water saved today can improve a region’s water security and add flexibility to systems that may need to withstand another year or more with precipitation below average.

In a survey conducted by the State Water Board in June, while many communities have significantly reduced their water demand over time, it is clear that more can  be done.

Conservation Actions Needed

Because of these dire conditions and the need to conserve more, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) is proposing that individuals and water agencies take necessary steps to conserve water supplies both for this year and into 2015, and is recommending that individuals and water agencies do even more voluntarily to manage our precious water resources.

Most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors. In some areas, 50 percent or more of our daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping. Some urban communities have been investing in conservation, particularly indoors, for years, but reducing the amount of water used outdoors can make the biggest difference of all.

Temporary Water Restrictions

To promote water conservation statewide, the emergency regulations would prohibit each of the following, except in case of health or safety needs or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency:

  • The direct application of water to any hard surface for washing
  • Watering of outdoor landscapes that cause runoff to adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures
  • Using a hose to wash an automobile, unless the hose is fitted with a sit-off nozzle
  • Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated

Action by Urban Water Suppliers Required

To reduce water demand, the regulations would require urban water suppliers to implement their Water Shortage Contingency Plans at a level that triggers mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use. Almost all urban water suppliers (those with more than 3,000 water connections) have these plans; about 40 of these larger agencies do not.

Water supplier serving fewer than 3,000 connections must also, within 30 days, require customers to limit outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week or implement another mandatory conservation measure to achieve a comparable reduction in water consumption by the people it serves relative to the amount consumed in 2013.