State Water Board Extends Emergency Water Conservation Regulation Despite Abundant Precipitation and Flooding
February 08, 2017
Citing a need to be prudent and prepare for another possible dry year, the State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday, February 28, 2017, voted unanimously to extend the state’s emergency conservation regulation amid criticism that this year’s rains have ended California’s state of emergency.
“We’ve had an impressive first half… (of the water year),” State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said during the meeting. “But we can’t predict where we will stand at the end of the season.”
The regulation had been set to expire Feb. 28. The board voted to keep it in place and revisit in May when the rainy season is largely over.
The board's vote was preceded by a lengthy public comment period in which many speakers asked that the order be allowed to expire since California is experiencing a record wet year. Those who asked to drop the emergency regulation said it is difficult to maintain credibility with customers and ask them to respect an emergency drought order when there is no emergency and many reservoirs are full.
ACWA Director of State Regulatory Affairs Dave Bolland spoke at the hearing and stressed that the need for an emergency regulation has "receded."
“The emergency response phase of the drought has passed, and although full recovery of groundwater to pre-drought levels and some localized water supply challenges will take time, the need for the emergency regulation has receded,” said Bolland.
Following Wednesday's action, existing conservation rules will remain in place for urban water suppliers that requires them to pass a so-called “stress-test” to demonstrate they have enough water reserves to withstand an additional three dry years. State officials said the majority of suppliers passed this “stress test” and have therefore not been subject to state conservation mandates.
Under the extended regulation, urban water suppliers that didn’t take or didn’t pass the “stress test” and have been subject to state-set standards are given an opportunity to update their analysis.
The extension also keeps in place monthly reporting of water use by urban water agencies, and reasonable prohibitions against wasteful practices such as watering lawns within 48 hours of a rainstorm, hosing off sidewalks and driveways, or overwatering landscaping to the point where water runs into the streets. Prohibitions also remain against homeowners associations taking action against homeowners trying to conserve during a declared drought, and those prohibitions are extended to cities and municipalities.
The board also heard a report on the statewide water savings for December 2016, which clocked in at 20.6% compared with water use in December 2013, an increase from both November 2016’s 18.9% savings and December 2015’s 18.2% statewide savings.
Cumulative statewide savings for June 2015 through December 2016 remains at 22.5%. Since June 2015, 2.43 million acre-feet of water have been saved — enough to supply more than 12 million people, close to a third of the state’s population, for a year. For more information, see the fact sheet here.