California To Adopt Long-term Defenses Against Future Droughts


Water conservation is a way of Californian life. That is the vision of two bills that Governor Brown signed on the 31st of May 2018. The two bills - AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg) will further the ongoing water conservation efforts of environmental organizations, waterboard suppliers, and legislative members.

Although imminent climate change in California is characterized by intense droughts, these bills should provide a strong defense by improving water supply reliability. The crux of these bills is that the responsibility of realizing efficient water supply will fall upon urban water suppliers instead of imposing on homeowners and businesses.

Urban and agricultural water suppliers will need to comply with the following recommendations as per the bills:

  1. The creation of new efficiency standards for water use indoors and outdoors as well as new standards of wastage due to leaks. This would also include accounting and preparing for unpredictable changes in local conditions. 30th June 2022 will be the deadline for the State Water Board to adopt new standards.

  2. Starting November 2023, every urban retail water agency would need to define and calculate, annually, efficient water requirements for all of their services. These would include precise metrics for indoor and outdoor residential water use as well as commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) irrigation. The metrics would include dedicated meter readings and installations, accountability for water loss, unique local variances, and reuse of potable water (bonus incentive).

  3. Urban water agencies would need to meet water use objectives. Failing to do so would warrant enforcement protocols by the State Water Board. In the event objectives are not met, the state Board would issue informational orders by 2023 and conservation orders by 2025.

  4. Indoor daily per capita water usage would be limited to 55 gallons until January 2025. This limit would reduce to 50 gallons in January 2030.

  5. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) along with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)  would define the outdoor water standards based on climate, land cover, and other misc. factors. These would be effective by June 2022.

  6. The SWRCB Would also set the water leaks standard by July 2020 based on the previous SB 555, 2015 bill.

  7. The DWR and SWRCB would collaborate and define performance measures for CII use by October 2021. These would be adopted by the State Water Board by June 2022.

  8. To defend better against droughts,  urban water agencies would need to update water management plans (reliability, strategy, and requirements). Water supply protocols would need to function under the assumption of 5 consecutive dry years.  

  9. Agricultural water consumers would need to include an annual budget for supply and use as well as plans to meet efficient water use objectives.

  10. Agricultural water users would also need to provide a specific plan to stretch water resources and supply during long-term droughts while sustaining crops and livestock.

These recommendations would make California resilient against future droughts.

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