State Water Resources Control Board Adopts Emergency Water Conservation Regulation in Response to Drought

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Regulation Requires Agencies to Restrict Outdoor Irrigation and Prohibit Certain Uses of Water

The State Water Resources Control Board has adopted an emergency regulation requiring local agencies to restrict potable water use by their customers and prohibiting certain uses of potable water. The regulation is expected to go into effect on August 1 and last for 270 days, unless extended by the SWRCB. The regulation does not apply to water wholesalers or the wholesale operations of combined water retailers/wholesalers.

The regulation requires urban water suppliers (suppliers providing water to over 3,000 municipal customers or providing over 3,000 acre-feet per year to municipal customers) to activate their previously adopted, Water Code-compliant Water Shortage Contingency Plans at the stage that imposes mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf.

As an option, urban water suppliers may develop an alternate plan that does not include mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation if allocation-based water rate structures, combined with other measures, achieve a level of conservation that would be greater than the amount of conservation that would be achieved by limiting outdoor irrigation to two days per week. An urban water supplier’s alternate plan would be subject to approval by the executive director of SWRCB who would evaluate whether the plan meets the requirements above. 

All other distributors of public water (whether publically or privately owned and including mutual water companies), along with urban water suppliers that do not have a Water Shortage Contingency Plan or that have been notified by the Department of Water Resources that their plan is not compliant with the Water Code, must limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes to two days per week or impose other mandatory conservation measures designed to achieve comparable reductions in water use. These agencies have 30 days from the effective date of the regulations (expected to be August 1) to implement their conservation measures.

Additionally, urban water suppliers must submit a report to the SWRCB by the 15th of each month comparing the amount of potable water produced in the preceding month to that month in 2013.The initial report must also state the number of people served by the urban water supplier. Beginning October 15, the report must provide an estimate of gallons of water used per person per day by residential customers.

The regulation also prohibits individuals from using potable water to wash driveways and sidewalks; water outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff; wash a car with a hose without a shut-off nozzle; or operate a fountain or other decorative water feature. Excess runoff includes situations where water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures. Violations are punishable by an infraction and up to a $500 fine for each day a violation occurs. Local agencies or the SWRCB may issue infractions and fines at their discretion. It is anticipated that such fines will likely be imposed through the authority and procedures in an urban water supplier’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan.

The SWRCB regulation can be viewed by clicking here.

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