In response to the ongoing severe drought, last month the State Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency regulation to ensure water agencies, their customers and state residents increase water conservation in urban settings or face possible fines or other enforcement.
The new conservation regulation is intended to reduce outdoor urban water use. The regulation mandates minimum actions to conserve water supplies for 2014-2015. Most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors. In some areas, 505 or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping.
Many communities and water suppliers have taken bold steps over the years and in this year to reduce water use; however, many have not and much more can and should be done statewide to extend diminishing water supplies.
With this regulation, all Californians will be 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 will be 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 water suppliers must report water use on a monthly basis to track progress.
Local agencies could ask courts to fine water users up to $500 a day for failure to implement conservation requirements in addition to their existing authorities and processes. The State Water Board could initiate enforcement actions against water agencies that don’t comply with the new regulations. Failure to comply with a State Water Board enforcement order by water agencies is subject to up to a $10,000 a day penalty.
The new regulation was developed following two drought emergency declarations by Governor Brown. On January 17, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a drought emergency proclamation following three dry or critically dry years in California. The April 25 Executive Order issued by the Governor directs the State Water Board to adopt an emergency regulation as it deems necessary, pursuant to Water Code section 1058.5, to ensure that urban water suppliers implement conservation measures.
As drought conditions continue, the State Water Board may revisit this regulation and consider other measures to enhance conservation efforts throughout the state.
The emergency regulation became effective on July 28, 2014 and will remain in effect until April 25, 2015, unless extended by the State Water Board due to ongoing drought conditions.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20% and prevent water waste – visit SaveOurH2O.org to find out how everyone can do their part, and visit Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.