Legal Alerts Mar 17, 2015

California’s State Water Resources Control Board Renews and Imposes Stricter Emergency Water Conservation Regulations

Limits on Outdoor Irrigation and New Reporting Requirements Included to Address Ongoing Drought

California’s State Water Resources Control Board Renews and Imposes Stricter Emergency Water Conservation Regulations

California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved a resolution today renewing and updating statewide emergency water conservation regulations adopted by the Board last year that were set to expire on April 25. The Office of Administrative Law still needs to approve the new regulations before they become effective.

In many ways, the new regulations re-adopt the same or similar water conservation measures that exist under the current regulations. All retail urban water suppliers (suppliers providing water to more than 3,000 municipal customers or supplying more than 3,000 acre-feet per year) must either (1) implement all requirements and actions of their water shortage contingency plans that include mandatory restrictions on the number of days that potable water can be used for outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf, or (2) submit an alternate plan that includes allocation-based rate structures which, in conjunction with other measures, will achieve a level of conservation superior to that achieved by limiting outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week. For urban water suppliers that do not have a water shortage contingency plan that restricts the number of days potable water can be used for outdoor irrigation, the new regulations will require them to limit such irrigation to no more than two days per week.

The new regulations also impose several new requirements on retail urban water suppliers, which must now:

  • Promptly notify customers of potential water leaks within a customer’s exclusive control; and
  • Include in their monthly monitoring report the population served, the percentage of water produced that is used for the residential sector, statistics on water conservation compliance and enforcement efforts, and number of days outdoor irrigation is allowed.

Smaller entities that distribute a public water supply but do not qualify as urban water suppliers must either (1) limit the use of potable water for outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week, or (2) implement mandatory conservation measures intended to achieve a 20 percent reduction in water consumption relative to 2013 (as compared to a “comparable” reduction in last year’s regulation).

In addition, the new regulations re-adopt existing end user restrictions and impose several new requirements which:

  • Prohibit landscape irrigation within 48 hours after measurable rainfall;
  • Prohibit the hospitality industry from serving drinking water, unless requested by patrons; and
  • Require hotels and motels to provide guests with notice of the option to not have towels and linens washed daily.

Similar to the existing regulations, the new regulations do not apply to water wholesalers or the wholesale operations of combined retail/wholesale water suppliers. The State Board recognizes that the new regulations will likely decrease revenues of urban water suppliers due to reduced water sales, and increase their costs by requiring additional reporting information. To the extent that reduced water sales are expected to cause budgetary shortfalls for the water suppliers, the Board urges suppliers to “take immediate steps to raise necessary revenues in a way that actively promotes continued conservation,” including rate structure changes.

The Board and staff also emphasized during today’s hearing that they will be looking at further regulations and measures in the future to continue to aggressively address the ongoing drought and need to conserve water throughout California.

The new regulations will remain in effect for 270 days. For more information about the emergency drought regulations and how they may affect your agency, please contact one of the attorney authors of this legal alert listed to the right, an attorney in the Environmental Law & Natural Resources practice group, or your BB&K attorney.

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