Will Mandatory Water Conservation Regulation be Effective?

By Laurie Greene, Editor

As the agricultural sector does its part in coping with curtailed water allocations and conserving what remains, an emergency regulation to increase conservation practices for all Californians went into effect TODAY. The new mandatory water conservation regulation targets outdoor urban water use. In some areas of the state, 50 percent or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping. This regulation establishes the minimum level of activity that residents, businesses and water suppliers must meet as the drought deepens and will be in effect for 270 days unless extended or repealed.

The regulation, adopted by the State Water Board July 15, and approved by the Office of Administrative Law July 28, mandates minimum actions to conserve water supplies both for this year and into 2015. For more information please visit the Conservation Regulation Portal.

In “The Public Eye: Voluntary water conservation not effective, data show,” Matt Weiser and Phillip Reese confirm, “only mandatory conservation measures, backed by a threat of fines, seem to prompt consumers to save.”

They reported state water agencies used five percent less water (January-May 2014) under mandatory rules alone than the previous three-year average. Agencies under voluntary conservation measures increased water usage four percent over the same timeframe.

Most significantly, water agencies working under mandatory water conservation regulations used fourteen percent less water in May 2014; whereas, other agencies increased usage slightly. And, seventy-five percent of water districts north of the Grapevine reduced usage compared to previous years, while only thirty percent of those south showed reductions.

Now let’s put this into perspective, the authors say that, for instance, Santa Ana residents, each, consume 108 gallons of water daily versus Sacramento residents, who use 218 gallons each. Likewise, San Francisco residents increased their water consumption in May, but they use forty-nine gallons daily, and of course,they do not have substantial landscaping to nourish.

With this regulation, all Californians are expected to stop: washing down driveways and sidewalks; watering of outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff; using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle, and using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated. The regulation makes an exception for health and safety circumstances.

Larger water suppliers are required to activate their Water Shortage Contingency Plan to a level where outdoor irrigation restrictions are mandatory. In communities where no water shortage contingency plan exists, the regulation requires that water suppliers either limit outdoor irrigation to twice a week or implement other comparable conservation actions. Finally, large urban water suppliers must report water use on a monthly basis to track progress beginning Aug. 15.

Local agencies could ask courts to fine water users up to $500 a day for failure to implement the conservation requirements of the regulation, in addition to their existing authorities and processes.

In addition, Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste and has signed a bill that bars state homeowners associations and common interest developments, such as condominiums, from fining residents for drought-respectful brown lawns. As yet, all other homeowners are not protected.

Visit SaveOurH2O.org to find out how everyone can do their part; Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought, and Saveourh2o.org/report-water-waste to report state agency water waste.

Gov. Brown Issues Executive Order to Redouble State Drought Actions

Governor Brown Doubles Down on Drought

 

With California’s driest months ahead, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to manage water and habitat effectively in drought conditions and called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.

“The driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse,” said Governor Brown. “This order cuts red tape to help get water to farmers more quickly, ensure communities have safe drinking water, protect vulnerable species and prepare for an extreme fire season. I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible.”

In January, the Governor declared a drought state of emergency. Since then, state water officials say that reservoirs, rainfall totals and the snowpack remain critically low. Current electronic readings show the snowpack’s statewide water content at just 16 percent of average.

In the order, Governor Brown directs the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board to expedite approvals of voluntary water transfers to assist farmers. He also directs the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to accelerate monitoring of drought impacts on winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River and its tributaries, and to execute habitat restoration projects that will help fish weather the on-going drought.

To respond to the increased threat of wildfire season, the order streamlines contracting rules for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and CALFIRE for equipment purchases and enables landowners to quickly clear brush and dead, dying or diseased trees that increase fire danger.

The order also calls on Californians and California businesses to take specific actions to avoid wasting water, including limiting lawn watering and car washing; recommends that schools, parks and golf courses limit the use of potable water for irrigation; and asks that hotels and restaurants give customers options to conserve water by only serving water upon request and other measures. The order also prevents homeowner associations from fining residents that limit their lawn watering and take other conservation measures.

The order provides a limited waiver of the California Environmental Quality Act for several actions that will limit harm from the drought.  This waiver will enable these urgently needed actions to take place quickly and will remain in place through the end of 2014.

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