Client Alert: Water Board Extends Regulations Regarding Water Conservation

On February 8, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) re-adopted and extended its existing water conservation regulations, with minor amendments. These regulations were scheduled to expire on February 28, 2017. The Board’s action continues the previous conservation strategy of allowing water suppliers to self-certify an additional three dry-year water supply to establish individualized conservation standards, extends the existing monthly water use reporting requirements and maintains the prohibition on wasteful water use practices. While the Water Board recognized that the State has experienced significant snow and rainfall during the 2016/2017 water year, the Water Board remained concerned that some reservoirs remain critically low and groundwater storage remains depleted in many areas due to the continued impact of prolonged drought. To address stakeholder concerns regarding the continuation of the conservation requirements given the snow and rainfall during the 2016/2017 water year, the Water Board will reassess the regulations by May 1, 2017, after a more thorough review of the State’s water supply.

Emergency Conservation Background

These regulations continue to implement Governor Brown’s May 9, 2016, Executive Order B-37-16 (“Executive Order”), which was the seventh in a series of executive actions since 2014 to address California’s historic drought. To implement the Executive Order, the Water Board initially adopted Resolution No. 2016-0029, which abandoned the previous tiered water conservation system and replaced it with a system that relies on locally established and certified conservation standards. The standards are established through the local supplier’s self-certification of their supply. That supply is calculated assuming three additional dry years and customer water demand from 2013 and 2014 averages. Suppliers that would face a shortage are required to comply with a conservation standard equal to the amount of that shortage. There is no floor of conservation required, meaning that where supply is sufficient based on three additional dry years, a supplier will not have a mandatory conservation requirement.

Regulations

The Water Board’s action extends the regulations adopted in Resolution No. 2016-0029, with minor amendments. Under the extended regulations, the self-certification requirements remain in effect and suppliers must still continue to submit monthly reporting of water use. The extended regulations also keep in place prohibitions against designated wasteful water use practices, including (1) outdoor watering during a rain event or 48 hours after, (2) watering down a sidewalk with a hose instead of using a broom or a brush, or (3) overwatering a landscape that results in water running off onto the sidewalk or into the gutter.

The extended regulations incorporate two noteworthy changes. First, water suppliers that did not previously submit or qualify for a self-certified conservation requirement and are instead still subject to the previous tiered water conservation system may submit materials to the Water Board by March 15, 2017, to establish a localized conservation requirement. Second, local governments are prohibited from adopting an ordinance which would impose a fine for failing to water a lawn or for having a brown lawn.

For more information from the Water Board regarding the water conservation effort visit: Emergency Conservation Regulations Portal. We will continue to keep you updated on developments in the drought response and action taken by the Water Board. If you have any questions regarding the extended regulations, please contact Barbara A. Brenner at (916) 468-0950 or barbara@churchwellwhite.com or Kerry Fuller at (916) 468-0950 or kerry@churchwellwhite.com.