New state emergency water rules may affect local districts

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Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board proposed an unprecedented step. Water users in urban areas could be fined up to $500 each day for wasteful use of water during the drought.

The board plans to impose prohibitions on washing vehicles with a running hose (without a control nozzle), watering hardscapes such as driveways, sidewalks and asphalt, and using potable water without recirculation pumps for fountains and other decorative water fixtures.

However, the SWRCB’s proposals are not limited to urban water suppliers and users. The board also wants all water suppliers, public or private, to take actions to limit unnecessary water use during the drought.

If a district has not established mandatory limitations for water use, the Board wants that imposed.

“For those districts with fewer than 3,000 connections, we’d like to see either a specific limit on outdoor use or implement mandatory restrictions,” Max Gomberg of the SWRCB said.

All three local water districts — Fern Valley, Idyllwild and Pine Cove — have established water conservation emergencies. However, Fern Valley and Pine Cove are in Stage 1, which is voluntary compliance by customers. No mandatory compliance is required in those districts at this time.

One of the options for mandatory restrictions is to limit outdoor irrigation use to no more than two days per week. This limit is necessary to promote conservation to address the drought emergency because outdoor irrigation accounts for 44 percent of urban water use. Outdoor irrigation is generally more discretionary than other types of use and because studies have shown that urban landscapes are often over-watered, according to the board’s description of its proposals.

“We’re not proposing to say what all Californians should do. We’re proposing the least Californians should do,” said Board Chair Felicia Marcus during a conference call last week.

The proposed emergency regulations were considered at the board’s July 15 meeting.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for and respond to the current drought conditions. In April, Brown issued an executive order directing the SWRCB to adopt emergency regulations, which it deems necessary to limit outdoor irrigation and other wasteful water practices.

 

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