California’s New Water Conservation Laws

On May 31, 2018 Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two new bills that will require urban water providers throughout California, including Carmichael Water District (CWD), to set new permanent water use targets for their service areas by 2022. Senate Bill 606 (Hertzberg) and Assembly Bill 1668 (Friedman) provide a framework for setting water use targets, as well as implementing and enforcing the new water use requirements.
 
CWD customers will not experience any immediate impacts from these new laws and contrary to recent media reports, customers 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 to add clarity and help navigate the complex laws. Several details are still to be determined by state regulators over the next several years, and CWD will be active in that dialogue.
 
What are the new laws?
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 (to be determined) based upon a community’s climate and the amount of landscaped area.
  • A standard for water loss due to leaks in water system pipes (to be determined).

These three standards will be calculated and added together to represent an overall water use target (in gallons) for water providers, including CWD. Although some local water providers in California base their rates on a water budget for each customer, the new state laws do not contain water use targets applicable to individual residence or businesses. CWD will determine how best to work with our customers on implementing the new state mandated targets.
 
Why were the new laws created?
The new laws were prompted by state regulators in response to California’s frequent cycles of drought and are intended to prepare California for future drought conditions and the effects to the state’s water supplies. State agencies have declared that the overall goal of the new state laws is to make water conservation a way of life in California.
 
When will the new water use targets take effect?
According to the laws, new water use targets must be set by 2022 and water providers 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 CWD customers. Over the next several years, specific water use targets will be set for CWD’s overall service area based upon the standards outlined 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 (and not an individual basis).
 
Will water providers be monitoring and evaluating individual water use as part of the new laws?
No. There is no requirement in the new laws that individual households must meet a specific target. The new laws provide a framework for setting targets, but those will be applied on a system-wide basis, and progress toward achieving targets will be reviewed on a system-wide basis.
 
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 (including all customers) NOT at the individual residence 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 subject to penalties/fines for violating current local water provider water waste ordinances and or regulations.
 
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 water use, but will be measured across CWD’s entire service area. That said, as the laws are translated into regulations, CWD will have a clearer picture of the reduction goals set by the state, what impacts they will have within our service area, and how CWD customers can help in achieving the required reductions.
 
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 (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. CWD will remain active in this process through partnerships, monitoring of the developing regulations, and providing input to state agencies.
 
Will residents have to go back to saving water as they did during the drought?
During the recent drought, CWD customers achieved some of the highest summer conservation levels in the State. By reducing overall use more than 34%, customers conserved well above the statewide drought goal of 25%. Unlike the short-term emergency drought restrictions, the new laws create long-term water use targets. 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.