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Governor Brown’s Proclamation Makes Water Conservation A Way Of Life

Sacramento, CA – Trumping state water officials’ proposed revisions to current standards, due out next week, Governor Jerry Brown today issued a new proclamation that intends to henceforth, make water conservation requirements across the state permanent.

Among the reasons the Governor cites are ongoing devastating impacts to the state’s water supply, agriculture and the environment due to persisting drought conditions and climate change.

Moving beyond temporary emergency measures, the proclamation calls for permanent changes and long-term conservation measures, geared to use water more wisely, in preparation of more frequent and persistent periods of limited supply.

Focused, Wiser Water Use

Plans are for the Department of Water Resources and board to use water more wisely by developing new usage targets that build on existing state law that calls for achieving a 20 percent reduction in urban water use by 2020. Areas of improvement focus on strengthening standards for indoor residential water use; outdoor irrigation through added consideration of local climate and satellite imagery data; commercial, industrial and institutional water use; and water lost through leaks. A draft of the proposed framework is due by January 10 next year.

In tandem with this, the Water Board is called to eliminate potable water waste by permanently prohibiting such actions as hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscape; washing vehicles with hoses that do not have a shut-off nozzle; using non-recirculated water in fountains or other water features; watering lawns within 48 hours of rains or in a manner that generates runoff; and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.

Other directives call for prioritizing local projects for loans to reduce leak losses; mandating urban and ag water suppliers to improve their data collection, system management and capital improvement projects. The State Public Utilities Commission will be ordering investor-owned water utilities to accelerate efforts to minimize leaks. The State Energy Commission must additionally certify conservation and water loss detection and control technologies that also increase energy efficiency.

Building Resilience Through Contingency

Towards the goal of strengthening local drought resilience, the Department of Water Resources will be called upon to ensure that urban water agencies maintain localized water shortage contingency plans that adequately address droughts lasting at least five years as well as more frequent and severe drought-like conditions. Proposed statewide standards for such, to be developed with stakeholder input, are due in draft form by next January 10.

Last, but not least, the proclamation targets improved agricultural water use, tapping the State Department of Food and Agriculture to update existing requirements for ag water management plans and provide a draft proposal by January 10. Water suppliers handling over 10,000 irrigated acres must also file their completed plans with the FDA.

In the wake of the Governor’s proclamation, the Water Board released its proposed changes to the drought emergency water conservation regulation. It anticipates finally approving them at its May 18 meeting after hearing final public comments, which are being accepted through Monday at noon.

Tailored Standards For Water Suppliers  

As indicated in the Governor’s proclamation, the board plans to allow urban suppliers to define their own conservation standard, based on their unique water supply and demand conditions. Suppliers must self-certify that they are meeting the requirement and provide accurate data to the board. Certain statewide requirements on small suppliers and businesses would be lifted under the proposed new standards, which, if adopted, will become effective in June and remain in effect until the end of next January.

The proposed changes include lifting specific requirements on businesses to not automatically bring water to or launder towels and linens for customers without asking first. Self-supplied commercial, institutional, and industrial entities would be required to target their water conservation at a level equal to the standard required of the nearest urban water supplier.

Penalties are retained for homeowners’ associations or community service organizations that interfere with homeowners’ efforts to reduce or cease watering vegetation or lawns during a declared drought emergency. So as to ensure that existing trees remain healthy and do not become a hazard to public safety, they and other non-turf vegetation planted in street medians may continue to be watered.