Water providers must set new water conservation targets by 2022 and will be expected to begin implementing them by 2023 and every year after that, to help prepare California for future droughts. State and local water agencies will now begin developing regulations to implement this new legislation, a process that is expected to take several years.
At a glance
New state laws will require water agencies to stay within a specific water budget, regardless of the current drought condition.
Water officials are saying the new laws confirm that conservation is a way of life in California, not just something to do during a drought.
Although the state won’t be ready to start enforcing the new water use limits for several years, water users are encouraged to start making permanent changes to their landscaping, appliances and habits now so they are ready when that time comes.
The two bills, AB 1668 and SB 606, signed by the governor last week, got extra attention when conservative blogs and radio shows reported, erroneously, that residents would face $1,000 fines if they did laundry and took a shower on the same day. In fact, the water budgets apply to water districts, not individual residents or businesses, and allow local agencies to set up their own ways of staying within their total water allotment.
The bills encourage water agencies to have their customers limit indoor water use to an average of 55 gallons a person each day. The goal is reduced to 52.5 gallons in 2025 and 50 gallons by 2030. Outdoor water use goals will also be established.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates a family of four would use 60 gallons per person, per day if they lived in a home with old inefficient toilets, old faucets, old shower heads, an old dishwasher and a 40-gallon washing machine, and took four eight-minute showers, washed a load of clothes and did a load of dishes each day. If that same family replaced only the washing machine with a high efficiency model, use would decrease to 54 gallons per person per day.
During the most recent drought, the state drew criticism for its blanket approach to limiting water use, given the wide variety of household types, weather conditions and property sizes throughout the state.
“A one size fits all approach doesn’t really work when it comes to water conservation,” said Mario Remillard, water conservation specialist for the Carlsbad Municipal Water District. “If we all do our part, we should stay well within the new limits.”
The new legislation incentivizes the use of recycled water, which is good news for Carlsbad since the city is one of the largest per capita users of recycled water. The city doubled the size of its water recycling facility in 2016 and continues to expand its network of purple pipes to distribute recycled water to new parts of the city. The state has an added incentive for agencies that provide recycled water treated to a level suitable for drinking. Carlsbad currently only uses recycled water for irrigation and other non-drinking uses, but other water agencies in the region have projects to develop new drinking water supplies from recycled water.
Other provisions of the new legislation include:
The State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Water Resources will adopt water-use efficiency regulations, outline reporting requirements for urban water suppliers and specify penalties for violations.
Wholesale water suppliers, like the San Diego County Water Authority must meet new requirements for water shortage planning and water loss reporting.
The state will require urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets.
If a water agency fails to stay within its water budget, the state could impose $1,000 a day fines on the agency, or up to $10,000 a day during a prolonged drought emergency. Since water rates reflect the actual cost of providing water service, these fines would trickle down to individual rate payers eventually. Enforcement is not expected to begin until the year 2021 at the soonest.
The Carlsbad Municipal Water District, a subsidiary of the City of Carlsbad, serves about 85 percent of the city. South and southeastern portions of the city are served by the Vallecitos Water District and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.