State Water Resources Control Board to Consider Emergency Water Conservation Regulations in Response to Drought

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Proposed Regulations to Impose Restrictions on Individuals, Urban Water Suppliers and Distributors of Public Water Supplies

In response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of Emergency Drought Declaration and Proclamation of a Continued State of Emergency, on July 15 the State Water Resources Control Board will consider adopting emergency water conservation regulations. The proposed regulations would enact restrictions on individuals, urban water suppliers (a supplier providing water for municipal purposes directly or indirectly to more than 3,000 customers or supplying more than 3,000 acre-feet of water annually) and distributors of public water supplies (whether publicly or privately owned and including mutual water companies). Interested parties have only five days from the posting of the July 8th Notice of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking to submit comments on the proposed regulations to the California Office of Administrative Law. Due to the short timeframe to comment and the ambiguities noted below, BB&K recommends the submission of joint comments by public agencies and other water suppliers.

As to individuals, the proposed regulations prohibit the application of water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes visible runoff, the use of a hose to wash an automobile except where the hose is equipped with a shut-off nozzle, the application of water to hard surfaces including driveways and sidewalks, and the use of potable water in non-recirculating decorative water fountains. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 for each day in which the violation occurs. However, the proposed regulations do not address how the restrictions would be enforced and who would enforce them.

The proposed regulations require all urban water suppliers to implement any applicable stage of their water shortage contingency plan that imposes mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation. For urban water suppliers without a water shortage contingency plan or with an insufficient plan, and for all distributors of public water supplies, the proposed regulations require, within 30 days, the implementation of limits on outdoor irrigation by customers to no more than two days per week or other conservation measures to achieve reduction in water consumption from 2013 levels. Although it appears that the limits on “outdoor irrigation” are not intended to apply to agricultural uses, the proposed regulations are ambiguous because the term “outdoor irrigation” is not defined.

The proposed regulations mandate that each urban water supplier submit a monthly monitoring report by the 15th of each month to the Water Board. The monthly report must state the amount of potable water produced (including treated water) in the preceding month and an estimate of the gallons of water used per person per day. Further, the initial report must state the number of people served by the urban water supplier.

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