State Water Board Releases Draft Regulation to Implement Governor’s Executive Order Concerning Water Conservation
by Shilpa M. Girimaji on April 24, 2015
On April 1, 2015, in response to the worsening drought conditions in California, the Governor declared a State of Emergency and issued Executive Order B-29-15 (“Order”). The drought is considered the worst in California’s history and the State will be required to recover 11 trillion gallons of water to overcome the severity of this crisis. The Governor’s Order is extensive, requiring water use reductions from businesses, water suppliers, and everyday citizens.
On April 21, 2015, the State Water Resource Board (“Water Board”) released its draft regulations to implement the Governor’s Order. Consideration of the public comments on the draft regulations will take place from May 5-6, 2015 at the Water Board’s business meeting. The Water Board will then revise its draft regulations in accordance with the public comments. The final version of the regulations is scheduled to go into effect on May 15, 2015 and will be in place through February 28, 2016.
The Water Board has published a helpful Fact Sheet describing the proposed regulations. The highlights of the regulations’ requirements for agencies that provide water service are described below.
Standards for Urban Water Suppliers
Urban Water Suppliers, as defined in Water Code section 10617, are retail suppliers who service more than 3,000 customers or deliver more than 3,000 acre feet of water per year. The draft regulations provide that these water suppliers will have discretion in how to achieve the following conservation standards that are imposed on them by the Water Board:
- The Water Board is now responsible to cut down California’s water usage by 25% state wide through February 28, 2016. In order to achieve the reduction, the Water Board has implemented a tiering structure, where the highest conservation demands are on those agencies with the highest residential water usage. The tiering structure found in the current draft regulations can be found in Section 865 of the Proposed Emergency Regulations (and are summarized in the Water Board’s Fact Sheet).
- Urban water suppliers delivering more than 20% of their water production to commercial agriculture may be allowed to modify the amount of water subject to their conservation standard. In order to do so, they must supply written certification to the Water Board to be able to subtract the water supplied to commercial agriculture from their total water production for baseline and conservation purposes. Additionally, urban water suppliers that have a reserve supply of surface water that could last multiple years may be eligible for placement on the lower conservation tier.
- Urban water suppliers will be required to report their water savings to the Water Board on July 15, 2015. The reporting period will be from July 15, 2015 to February 15, 2016 and each reporting period will be compared to that of the prior year. The Water Board will assess suppliers’ compliance for both monthly and cumulative water reductions.
Standards for Smaller Water Suppliers
Water suppliers that serve fewer than 3,000 connections are considered to be “small water suppliers.” Under the draft Regulations, small water suppliers have two options for reducing water consumption:
- They will have to meet a 25% conservation standard; or
- They will have to restrict outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscape to more than 2 days per week.
Small water suppliers have previously not been required to report on water usage or conservation measures. However, now they will be directed to provide a one-time report to the Water Board on December 15, 2015, addressing:
- Potable water production from June – November 2013 and June- November 2015
- The number of days per week outdoor irrigation is allowed and other restrictions implemented to achieve a 25% water use reduction.