Target is urban areas, but rural will be affected

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation concerning water usage and water emergencies.

“In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely. We have efficiency goals for energy and cars — and now we have them for water,” said Brown in a press release.

This legislation establishes guidelines for efficient water use, and a framework for the implementation and oversight of the new standards, which must be in place by 2022. Among their goals are the following:

• Creating incentives for water suppliers to recycle water.

• Requiring both urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets and prepare for drought.

“The measures impose a number of new or expanded requirements on state water agencies and local water suppliers, and provides for significantly greater state oversight of local water suppliers’ water use, even in non-drought years,” commented attorneys for Best Best & Krieger law firm.

Senate Bill 606 primarily orders the State Water Resources Control Board to establish long-term standards for per-capital daily indoor residential water use. The state already has a law requiring a 20-percent reduction in urban per capita water use.

The new standards will establish an indoor, per-person water use goal of 55 gallons per day until 2025, 52.5 gallons from 2025 through 2029 and 50 gallons daily in 2030.

Although most of the bill addresses urban water usage, one section affects the local water districts. Currently, a water district is authorized to declare a water shortage emergency condition within its service area when it “finds and determines that the ordinary demands and requirements of water consumers cannot be satisfied without depleting the water supply of the distributor to the extent that there would be insufficient water for human consumption, sanitation and fire protection.”

SB 606 will now require the water agency to declare the water emergency.

The second bill, Assembly Bill 1668, also is primarily focused on urban water distributors. However, this bill requires California’s counties to include small water suppliers and rural communities in their assessment of potential water shortages.

By Jan. 1, 2020, the SWRCB is to propose recommendations concerning the implementing countywide drought and water shortage contingency plans, which should address small water suppliers and rural communities. These recommendations may be included in the county’s local hazard mitigation plans.

“[W]ith the passage and signing of these bills, we can now check the box next to ’conservation is a way of life’ in California and take another key step in implementing the governor’s California Water Action Plan,” said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies in a press release after Brown signed the bills.

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