Water Authority Proposes More Sustainable Path for Emergency Conservation Regulations

What's New?

Under current state regulations, new and sustainable drought-proof supplies such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project cannot be used to offset the level of water-use reduction mandates imposed by the state.

On Friday, Nov. 13, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order directing the State Water Resources Control Board to extend its statewide water-use restrictions through October 2016, if drought conditions persist through January 2016. He also directed the State Board to consider modifications to its regulations, and the agency is seeking public comments on what elements should be amended.

If regulations are extended, the Water Authority is proposing revisions that would recognize water agency investments in drought-resilient supplies in addition to water-use reductions.

The Water Authority has created a form to make it convenient for the public to submit comments on making modifications to the extended emergency drought regulation.

The State Board’s existing Emergency Regulation for Statewide Urban Water Conservation include conservation standards for urban water agencies in California. In San Diego County, these standards require each of the Water Authority’s member agencies to reduce their urban potable water use between 12 percent and 36 percent compared to 2013.  This mandate took effect on June 1, 2015, and is scheduled to be in effect through February 2016. Overall, the aggregate savings target for the region is 20 percent compared to 2013 levels. The San Diego region has beaten the state's goal, reducing urban, potable water use by 26 percent through October 2015.

San Diego County's Commitment to Conservation
Aggressive conservation measures implemented in San Diego County over the past 25 years have already achieved substantial water-use reductions, making it more challenging to achieve state-mandated savings without potentially harming the region's economy and quality of life. The reduction in potable per capita water use since 1990 offsets the need for over 300,000 acre-feet per year within the region.

The current emergency regulation focuses only on conservation and eliminates any benefit from such additional investments and innovations in water supply reliability. For instance, in the Water Authority’s service area, decades of prudent investments – including long-term Colorado River water conservation and transfer agreements and the upcoming addition of drinking water from the Carlsbad Desalination Project in December – have significantly reduced the region’s vulnerability to drought.

Governor Brown's Nov. 13 order directing the State Board to consider modifications to its regulation has opened the door to a more balanced approach to managing drought conditions. The Water Authority has proposed to the State Board an alternative path to compliance that appropriately recognizes billions of dollars of investments our ratepayers have made to improve the regions's water supply reliability and reduce the impacts drought can have on our region's economy. The Water Authority’s has put forward a proposal that would allow regional and local water agencies to meet reduction targets through a combination of conservation and sustainable drinking water supplies, such as desalination, potable reuse and long-term transfers of conserved water. Due to the severity of the drought, agencies would remain obligated to conserve by at least 8 percent compared to the state's baseline period during emergency conditions.

The State Board has the opportunity to incentivize water supply development throughout California by adopting changes that allow water agencies to offset mandated reductions with sustainable water supplies and better prepare the state for future droughts.

Written Comments

The State Board is considering modifications to its existing emergency regulation.  As part of this process, it is seeking written comments on what elements should be revised. Written comments are due by noon Wednesday, Dec. 2. The Water Authority encourages community members who support modifications to submit their comments to the state board by the deadline. To submit your comments via the Water Authority's form, click here.

Written comments must be submitted to the attention of:

Jeanine Townsend, Clerk of the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Comment letters (15 MB or less in size) also may be submitted to the Clerk of the Board via email at commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov, or by fax at (916) 341-5620.  Email letters should indicate in the subject line “Comment Letter – Urban Water Conservation Workshop.”

The state board also has scheduled a public workshop that starts at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7 in Sacramento at the CalEPA Headquarters Building, Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Second Floor. The Water Authority plans to present its proposal during the hearing.


State Water Resources Control Board’s Website on Emergency Regulation and Conservation Standards

Drought Regulations Fact Sheet

Top Reasons Why the SWRCB Should Amend Emergency Regulation to Recognize Drought-Sustainable Water Supplies