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California's New Water Conservation Laws

Post Date:06/25/2018 2:30 AM

The Facts about California's New Water Conservation Laws

On May 31, 2018 Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two new bills that will require water providers throughout California, including SSWD, to set new permanent water use targets for their service areas by 2022. The new laws provide a framework for setting water use targets, as well as implementing and enforcing the new water use requirements.

We wanted our customers to know that there are no immediate impacts from these new laws and that several stories in the media about new strict water use requirements are not true. For example: You WILL be able to take a shower and wash clothes in the same day, under the new laws.

Below are some facts about the new water conservation laws. Many of the details are still to be determined by state regulators during the next several years, and we will be active in that discussion. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our customer service team at 916.972.7171 or feedback@sswd.org.

What do the new laws say?

While many details for implementing the new water use requirements will be determined over the next several years, the overall framework includes:

  • A standard for indoor residential water use of 55 gallons per person per day; dropping incrementally to 50 gallons beginning in 2030.
  • A standard for outdoor residential water use based upon a community's climate and the amount of landscaped area (still to be determined).
  • A standard for water loss due to leaks in water system pipes (still to be determined).

These three standards will be calculated and added together to create an overall water use target for each water provider, including SSWD.  We will then determine how to best partner with our customers to reach the new water use targets for our service area.

Why were the new laws created?

The new laws were prompted by California's frequent cycles of drought and are meant to better prepare California for the next drought and the future effects of climate change on the state's water supplies.  The overall goal is to make water conservation a way of life in California and a permanent part of the state's culture.

When will the new water use targets take effect?

Water providers, including SSWD, must set new water use targets by 2022 and will be expected to begin implementing them by 2023 and every year after that.

How will the new laws impact customers?

There are no immediate impacts to customers.  Over the next several years, specific water use targets will be set for SSWD's overall service area based upon the standards outlines in the laws.

Will it be illegal to take a shower and wash clothes in the same day, as some media have reported?

No. There is nothing in the laws that specifies when or how often a person may shower, do laundry, or use water for any other purpose. The new laws outline an overall framework for setting and meeting water use targets at the water provider level. While the framework outlined in the laws does include a goal for individual water use of 55 gallons per person per day beginning in 2022, this applies on an overall system-wide basis; not an individual basis.

Will residents have to go back to saving water as they did during the drought?

No. The new laws create long-term water use targets not short-term, emergency conservation targets like those implemented during the drought. The long-term targets are meant to inspire greater efficiency over time rather than mandate short-term cutbacks that require extreme measures such as not watering your lawn or flushing the toilet less.

How hard will it be to meet the indoor target of 55 gallons per person per day?

It’s important to note that the target of 55 gallons per person per day is not a goal for individual customers, but will be measured across the entire service area. That said, water industry experts are projecting that many people are already meeting this target or do not have far to go. To help our customers reduce their indoor water use, SSWD offers rebates for upgrading fixtures to high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers.

How will the new laws impact businesses in California?

While the new laws do not set specific water use targets for business, they do outline a framework for creating new water efficiency performance measures for businesses—these are recommended actions for specific business sectors to improve water efficiency over time. Performance measures will be determined over the next several years, and the process will include opportunities for public input.

Will individual residents and businesses be fined for not meeting water use targets?

The regulations and associated water use targets are required for the water provider as a whole NOT at the individual resident or business level. Therefore, individuals and businesses will not be fined by the state for not meeting the water provider water use target. However, individuals and businesses may be fined for violating current local water provider water waste ordinances and guidelines.

What are the next steps for implementing the new laws?

The laws will now be translated into regulations, which will outline details and rules for implementing the intent of the laws at the local level. Stakeholders (such as SSWD and other water providers, non-profit organizations and other interested parties) will work together over the next several years with state agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Water Resources, to finalize the regulations by the required deadline of 2022.