Water Conservation Portal - ARCHIVED FAQ
Water Conservation Topics, (April – Nov 25, 2017)
Governor Brown declared a drought emergency on January 17, 2014 and lifted it on April 7, 2017, with some exception. Executive Order B-40-17 lifted the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies.
This Fact Sheet answers questions on how the State Water Board will support the Administration's planned action in key initiatives announced April 7, 2017, including executive order B-40-17 to rescind the January 17, 2014, drought declaration and the multi-agency effort to increase efficiency in how the state uses water to ensure we "Make Water Conservation a California Way of Life."
As Governor Brown noted, "This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner." Climate change is increasing average temperatures and creating more extreme droughts and storm events. We need to use water more wisely and prepare for more frequent and persistent periods of limited water supply. Conservation is a California way of life.
- Using potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways;
- Allowing runoff when irrigating with potable water;
- Using hoses with no shutoff nozzles to wash cars;
- Using potable water in decorative water features that do not recirculate the water;
- Irrigating outdoors during and within 48 hours following measureable rainfall;
- Irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians; and
- Irrigation with potable water outside of newly constructed homes and buildings that is inconsistent with regulations or other requirements established by the California Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development.
In addition to the prohibitions that apply to all Californians,
- Restaurants are prohibited from serving water to their customers unless the customer requests it; and
- Hotels and motels must offer their guests the option to not have their linens and towels laundered daily, and prominently display this option in each guest room.
The Water Board is using a rulemaking process to make the restrictions on wasteful water practices long-term. The current emergency regulation keeps those in place until November 25, 2017, by which time or thereabouts, the Board will consider adopting the existing, or similar, prohibitions permanently.
To be informed of a water conservation rulemaking process (restrictions on wasteful practices or urban water supplier monthly reporting), sign up for our email distribution list (select "General Interests" and then "Water Conservation Regulations.")
Yes, mindful that conservation is still important given climate change and uncertain future hydrologic conditions. The prohibition that prevents any city; county or city and county from imposing a fine as prohibited by section 8627.7 of the Government Code, applies during a period for which the Governor has issues a proclamation of a drought emergency. When such proclamation is not in place, fines may be issued. We encourage Cities, HOAs, and residents to work with one another and to develop compliance pathways when considering issuing citations, as lawns may take time to green up once regular irrigation resumes. The State Water Board retains continuing authority to prevent the waste, unreasonable use, unreasonable method of use, or unreasonable method of diversion of water.
No. An HOA cannot fine or require a homeowner to reverse or remove the water-efficient landscaping measures upon the conclusion of the drought state of emergency (Civil Code section 4735(e)). See this Fact Sheet for information on prohibitions for HOAs that act against homeowners with low-water landscapes.
Local agencies may establish water-efficient landscaping requirements under the Water Code and the Government Code. An HOA cannot enforce architectural or landscaping guidelines or policies that prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, compliance with the local water-efficient landscape ordinances.
Check with your local supplier regarding what stage applies in your service area. To address local water supply needs, local water agencies select the water stage that applies to their service areas. This will vary across the state. While the drought declaration has been lifted in most of California, local suppliers may need to maintain drought stages.
The Governor's April 1, 2015 Executive Order prohibits irrigation with potable water "outside of newly constructed homes and buildings" unless drip or microspray irrigation is used. This prohibition does not extend to new athletic fields and parks but is instead directed at ornamental landscapes associated with newly constructed homes and buildings. The state Buildings Standards Commission adopted emergency regulations to implement this prohibition effective June 2015; eliminating confusion about what standards builders have to comply with regarding this prohibition. It is not the intent of this prohibition to require replacement of irrigation systems that are already in place based on issued building permits and contracts for sale. The Commission’s informational bulletin provides links to each emergency standard covering nonresidential, residential, educational and health facilities.
The emergency regulation prohibits "irrigation with potable water outside of ornamental turf on public street medians." The emergency regulation does not include a specific definition of a median, but a median is commonly considered to be a strip of land between street lanes. In some cases, discretion and reasonable judgment will need to be exercised in determining whether certain areas are considered medians and subject to a regulation adopted by the State Water Board. Urban water suppliers and municipalities are urged to stop irrigating other non-functional ornamental turf, such as strips bordering street lanes. In addition, we are focused only on ornamental turf and encourage the irrigation and preservation of trees.
The emergency regulation prohibits "the application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall." The emergency regulation does not include a specific definition of measurable rainfall. The local water supplier and individuals will need to exercise discretion and reasonable judgment to determine whether a specific precipitation event triggers the prohibition. At a minimum any amount of rainfall that generates run-off or puddles should be considered measurable. Nothing in the emergency regulation prevents a water supplier from developing/adopting a definition of measurable rainfall for their service area.
The water year starts October 1 and goes through September 30 of the following year. Given that most of the rain in California occurs by April 1 and very little occurs in the summer and early fall, we know whether a water year will be considered a "drought year" in late spring. That is why a declaration of a drought year occurs before the end of the water year, but technically, it is based on the water year. For example, the following water years represent California's recent drought.
- First drought year: Oct 1, 2011 - Sept 30, 2012
- Second drought year: Oct 1, 2012 - Sept 30, 2013
- Third drought year: Oct 1, 2013 - Sept 30, 2014
- Fourth drought year: Oct 1, 2014 - Sept 30, 2015
- Fifth drought year: Oct 1, 2015 - Sept 30, 2016
Compliance and Enforcement Topics (April – Nov 25, 2017)
Suppliers no longer have a state-mandated conservation standard, however, per title 23, section 865, subdivision (b)(2) of the California Code of Regulations, each urban water supplier must continue to submit its monthly conservation report by the 15th of each month, using the same on-line tool as in prior months: http://drinc.ca.gov/Drinc/MonitoringReport.aspx
All suppliers must meet their conservation standards. For those suppliers that fall out of compliance, the State Water Board continues to implement compliance assistance and progressive enforcement as appropriate (e.g., send warning letter, notice of violation, conservation order). In the specific case of a supplier with a zero conservation standard, should the cumulative usage begin to exceed that of 2013, progressive enforcement actions may be taken and violators are subject to civil liability of up to $500 for each day the violation occurs.
Suppliers must submit accurate data in their self-certification for their calculated conservation standard. However, they may also choose a higher conservation target to enforce locally. There is a place on the online self-certification form to indicate a supplier's target should they choose to have one. The State Water Board will only initiate progressive enforcement actions based on a supplier's self-certified standard; not their own local target.
Yes, compliance remains cumulative under both extensions of the emergency regulation in February and May 2016. Note that the cumulative basis has changed under the May 2016 extension. For those urban water suppliers that have a new self-certified conservation standard, their cumulative basis begins in June 2016. For any urban water supplier that continues using its March 2016 conservation standard, their cumulative basis does not change, i.e., cumulative from June 2015.
If an urban water supplier believes that the applicable conservation standard is unachievable due to firm commercial and industrial water use and residential use reductions that would affect public health and safety, Resolution 2015-0032 (see paragraph 16) allows an urban water supplier to submit a request, accompanied by supporting information or documentation, for alternate enforceable methods of compliance with the conservation standard. The Board has issued Alternate Compliance Orders to several water suppliers with different localized water use situations including significant food processing, power generation, and petroleum refining uses by the urban water suppliers’ customers. Information on Alternate Compliance Orders issued to date are found on this webpage: Information on Alternate Compliance Orders issued to date are found on this webpage: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/alternate_compliance_orders.shtml
To determine if urban water suppliers are meeting required use reductions, water production data, as reported monthly by each individual water supplier will be compared to the same period(s) in 2013. Given the severity of the current drought, compliance will be assessed both on a monthly and a cumulative basis under the emergency regulation, which remains in effect through February 28, 2017.
The State Water Board continues to evaluate compliance each month and may take additional action on a case-by-case basis.
The State Water Board is primarily responsible for enforcing the required reductions in water use. The emergency regulation includes two additional enforcement tools that could be used alone, or in combination with other tools, to address the following compliance problems:
- Failure of water suppliers to file reports as required by the regulation;
- Failure to implement prohibitions and restrictions as described in the Governor's executive orders and the emergency regulation; and
- Failure of water suppliers to meet the assigned water use conservation standard.
Violations of prohibited and restricted activities are considered infractions and are punishable by fines of up to $500 for each day in which the violation occurs. Any peace officer or employee of a public agency charged with enforcing laws and authorized to do so by ordinance may issue a citation to the violator. In many areas, local water suppliers have additional compliance and enforcement authorities that will continue to be used to address water waste.
The potable urban water use reduction requirement and associated reporting applies to urban water suppliers, not subdivisions of local government.
Water suppliers that are significantly off-track in meeting their conservation standard will be directed to submit information on their conservation actions, rates and pricing and enforcement efforts to determine the actions needed to come into compliance. The State Water Board will assess this information, including factors beyond the water supplier's control, as it considers next steps.
Provision 8 of the Governor's April 1, 2015 Executive Order directs the State Water Board to work with water agencies and state agencies to identify mechanisms that will encourage the adoption of rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to maximize conservation. The State Water Board is currently engaging with state agencies, water suppliers, and other stakeholders to address the financial, technical, political, and legal challenges associated with changing rates, surcharges, and other fees. As one element of its implementation, the State Water Board will provide resources to facilitate the development and enhancement of water rate structures that encourage efficient water use. These resources, and information on implementation of Provision 8, are available at the Water Board's Conservation Water Pricing website at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/pricing/.
Section 865(g) in the emergency regulation pertains to suppliers that are not urban water suppliers (i.e. small water suppliers). These suppliers need to submit an online report to the State Water Board by December 15, 2016 and describe the small supplier’s actions to encourage or require water conservation. The State Water Board will provide an on-line form to use for submitting information. A notification will be sent out once the online reporting tool is live for the December 2016 reports. This page has information about the small supplier reports: http://www.drinc.ca.gov/dnn/Applications/PublicWaterSystems/SmallWaterSupplierConservationReporting.aspx.
Water suppliers should account for increased water use due to future building activity in their identification and implementation of conservation actions to achieve the conservation standard for their service area. For example, some agencies have used an offset system, where new buildings retrofit older buildings to achieve water savings equal to or greater than the use they propose to add.
Contact the Department of Water Resources for questions regarding actions directed to the Department in the Governor's April 1, 2015 Executive Order.
2013 is used as the baseline and shows pre-drought water use. In January 2014 The Governor’s Executive Order officially declared a drought emergency. To evaluate water saving after implementation of the mandatary conservation standards that started in June 2015, comparisons are made against 2013 water use for the same month. All comparisons are to 2013 (including Jan - May 2016).
A water supplier’s emergency conservation standard is based on water use for the months of July - September 2014. The summer months of 2014 were used to establish each urban water supplier’s conservation standard because the hot summer months have the most water use, primarily comprised of outdoor irrigation, and voluntary water conservation efforts were in place. This represents the highest water use with voluntary measures in place.
Please see the fact sheet that describes how the State Water Board assesses compliance with the mandatory conservation standards. https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/docs/factsheet/assessing_compliance.pdf.
Emergency Regulation and Definitions
No. Water agencies that do not self-certify shall continue with their specific conservation standard that went into effect on March 1, 2016.
The definition of water year in the regulation must be used in the self-certification calculations. The emergency regulation defines the water year as the period from October 1 through the following September 30 and the water year is designated by the year in which it ends. This means that water year 2017 starts October 1, 2016 and ends September 30, 2017. See also Section 865(a)(6) in the regulation.
Yes, this refers to calendar years.
The retail supplier will have to do the best they can and reach out to any other retail customers of the wholesaler as well as attempt to get a response from the wholesaler. The due date for a retail water supplier's self-certification submittal is on or before June 22.
Yes, those dates are correct. The supply availability covers the water years 2017, 2018, and 2019 using the assumption that the next three years' precipitation mirrors that of water years 2013, 2014, and 2015. Note that the starting conditions are the 2016 water year conditions and that it is likely different from the beginning of the 2013 water year.
You don't need to allocate specific amounts from each source (e.g. sea water desalination or recycled water) to each retailer. However, you must provide total volume of water expected to be delivered to each retailer in each of the next three water years. The sum total of estimates for each year cannot exceed the total supply that the wholesaler determines would be available in that year.
For the purpose of the stress test calculations, submit accurate data and analysis using available information. If there is a need to make assumptions to maintain other beneficial uses or to conform to other requirements, e.g., that a water table does not go below a certain level, those need to be explicitly stated on the online form. Also, retail water suppliers can have their own voluntary target, separate from the calculated standard.
Use the quantity of groundwater that is accessible, without addition of new wells or completion of treatment projects that would fall outside the three-year projection period (2016-17 through 2018-19). You should also take into account likely drawdowns during the three-year projection period, corresponding changes in groundwater elevation, and any potential effects that a decrease in groundwater elevation will have on the ability of a supplier to pump groundwater. Information about assumptions being used in your calculations must be included in the online form (including attachments to the form).
Use available information and when information is not available, describe the assumptions used to calculate the value reported. Keep your analysis within the three-year timeframe as indicated in the emergency regulation. Consider factors such as well depth, water table levels, expected impacts of water supply reliability with three additional years of drought, and any other significant factors that are included in your analysis.
Yes. The online form will have a specific place for listing each type of supply that the supplier intends to use for each of the next three years. Suppliers will also be asked to provide an itemized list of these sources of supply, by type. For example, the form will have a place to record aggregate local surface water. This information must be itemized and show each individual local surface water source. This information can be provided in a separate document, if they do not fit on the online form. Supporting documents that explain data and calculations, including assumptions, must be uploaded to the online form and should not exceed 10 pages.
Your wholesaler will provide information on what it will supply to each of its retail water customers using the assumption that precipitation that occurred over the water years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 is exactly the same for upcoming water years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, while considering that starting conditions are likely different in 2016 than they were in 2013.
Agreements may exist between the wholesaler and retailer, and/or common carryover allocation practices may change under the circumstances experienced during multiple dry years. If a wholesaler stores and delivers carryover water in subsequent years, the retailer can factor the carryover amount in the subsequent year's supply. However if carryover facilities are limited and there is no delivery of carryover water from one year to the next, the carryover water cannot be factored into the retailer's subsequent year's supply.
If that untreated water could be treated and used for potable drinking water purposes, then that water would count as a source of potential supply.
Recycled water for purple pipe systems is not a potable supply and is not included in the baseline. Advanced-treated recycled water for indirect potable reuse (e.g., groundwater augmentation or surface water augmentation) is included as a source of supply.
If it is recharging a supply that realistically can be used for potable water with treatment, then it should be included.
Each individual urban water supplier will need to self-certify. The self-certification must be supported with information showing how you calculated your total water supply, which would include information on the individual supplies that are then summed to generate a forecast of total potable water supply.
Revisions to the Emergency Regulation/Self-Certification /Stress Test (May 2016)
General End-User Requirements and Commercial, Industrial, Institutional (CII) Topics
- Businesses that use water for manufacturing and other purposes
The emergency regulation does not assign percent reductions to specific sectors. Under the emergency regulation, water suppliers are given flexibility to achieve their conservation standards. Water suppliers will determine locally the actions necessary to ensure that they are meeting these requirements. This includes ensuring that their commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) sectors are contributing to the conservation standard. For many CII water users, the State Water Board envisions that the majority of their water savings would be achieved through a reduction in outdoor water use and improved efficiency. Contact your water supplier to learn more about local conservation actions.
- Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional (CII) properties that use a private well
The emergency regulation requires commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) properties with an independent water supply (i.e., not served by a water supplier) to either limit outdoor irrigation to two days per week or target potable water use reductions commensurate with those required of the nearest urban water supplier and implement the reductions on or before July 1 2016 (see Section 864(c) of the regulation). Often, these properties have large landscapes that would otherwise not be addressed by this regulation.
- Communities that already use less water
Communities with lower per capita water use were assigned a lower conservation standard. Communities with higher water use are required to save more.
- Golf Courses
Golf courses, like all Californians, are subject to the individual end-user requirements contained in the emergency regulation. Furthermore, golf courses served by a water supplier are subject to the conservation actions determined by their water supplier. Additionally, golf courses with an independent water supply (i.e., not served by a water supplier in part or whole) are required to either limit outdoor irrigation to two days per week or target potable water use reductions commensurate with those required of the nearest urban water supplier. Contact your water supplier to learn more about local conservation actions and golf course requirements.
- Home Owners Associations (HOAs)
HOAs, like all Californians, are subject to the individual end-user requirements contained in the emergency regulation. Furthermore, HOAs served by a water supplier are subject to the conservation actions determined by their water supplier. Additionally, HOAs with an independent water supply (i.e., not served by a water supplier in part or whole) are required to either limit outdoor irrigation to two days per week or target potable water use reductions commensurate with those required of the nearest urban water supplier. Contact your water supplier to learn more about local conservation actions and HOA requirements.
- Homeowners with a private well
The conservation requirement will be met primarily through standards imposed on water suppliers. Private well owners that do not receive water service are, like all Californians, subject to the individual end-user prohibitions contained in the emergency regulation.
- Hospitals and health care facilities
The emergency regulation does not assign percent reductions to specific sectors. Under the emergency regulation, water suppliers are given flexibility to achieve their conservation standards. Water suppliers will determine locally the actions necessary to ensure that they are meeting these requirements. Regardless, institutions, such as hospitals, should evaluate whether a reduction in outdoor irrigation use could produce significant water savings. Contact your water supplier to learn more about local conservation actions.
Private well owners that do not receive water service are, like all Californians, subject to the individual prohibitions contained in the emergency regulation and Executive Orders. The prohibitions that apply to everyone include:
- Using potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways;
- Allowing runoff when irrigating with potable water;
- Using hoses with no shutoff nozzles to wash cars;
- Using potable water in decorative water features that do not recirculate the water;
- Irrigating outdoors during and within 48 hours following measureable rainfall;
- Irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians;
- Irrigation with potable water outside of newly constructed homes and buildings that is not delivered by drip or microspray systems; and
- Restaurants serving water to their customers unless the customer requests it.
Additionally, hotels and motels must offer their guests the option to not have their linens and towels laundered daily, and prominently display this option in each guest room.
One option is to show a copy of the regulation or statute that says fines for failing to water a lawn during a governor-declared drought emergency are illegal. Both the Board and your local water agency can enforce these rules. (See Water Code, section 377, subd. (b)(2).) You can find a link to the State Water Board’s complaint system HERE, and a tool to look up your local water agency HERE. Your local water agency should have a complaint reporting tool on its website. You can find the Board’s current drought regulations HERE, and an official copy of the California Civil Code HERE.
The Extended Emergency Regulation continues to only apply to potable water use. Irrigation with non-potable recycled water will not be affected.
No. The emergency regulation only applies to potable water use. Areas irrigated with non-potable recycled water will not be affected.
Drought remains a critical concern. Rainfall has helped, but so far drought conditions remain in most of the state.
No. The emergency regulation does not prohibit the filling of private or public swimming pools. However, water suppliers will decide how to meet their conservation standards, which could include limitations on the filling of swimming pools. Contact your water supplier to learn more about local conservation actions.
Commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) properties with an independent water supply (not served by a water supplier) under the Extended Emergency Regulation continue to be required to either limit outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week or target potable water use reductions commensurate with those required of the nearest urban water supplier. Often, these properties have large landscapes that would otherwise not be addressed by this regulation but provide the same opportunity for appropriate conservation.
Self-Certification Form and Calculations (May 2016 – April 2017) date added
The drought emergency regulation pertains to urban potable water. "Purple pipe" water is not potable so it doesn't count as a supply of potable water. However, in your supporting document or in Step 2 of the online form, you can describe efforts to advance the use of recycled water in "Notes and Comments".
Based on the groundwater tab of Worksheet 1 we need to evaluate the highest producing well for June 2013 and June 2016, then find another way to provide you additional data in our supporting document. However, our highest producing wells in 2013 and 2016 are not the same. Do you have a preference on what to do in that situation?
Provide both the 2013 and 2016 well data for the well that provided the highest percentage of your water supply in 2016, since the starting point for projecting out three additional years is October 1, 2016.
Summarize what you expect would occur in the groundwater basins over the three assumed dry years in your supplemental document (10 pages or less). You can only make reference to the engineering reports if your reference is a direct link to a page where a reader could immediate see where a number or calculation is coming from. Do not include links to entire reports.
The State Water Board's data system will send a confirmation email when it receives the online self-certification submittal. Each urban retailer water supplier has to post its conservation standard and supporting data and analysis within two weeks of submitting the online form to the State Water Board. In July, the State Water Board will also post the new conservation standards.
The new self-certified conservation standard will become effective June 1. (Note that June reports are due July 15 so the effective date is after the online form is due).
The analysis starts with current conditions in 2016 and projecting supply and demand to the end of the current water year. Then retail and wholesale water suppliers must assume that the hydrology in water year 2017 will be identical to 2013, the water year 2018 will be identical to 2014, and the water year 2019 will be identical to 2015.
"Mirroring" means the same precipitation, same amounts in the same locations. It does not refer to yearly averages over large regions.
Include the raw water if it could be used as a source of potable water and impacts water reliability. That is, only include raw water that could be used for potable drinking water purposes with available treatment.
"Capable" means that equipment is in place and functional so it can treat water to drinking quality. If there is a new treatment capacity coming on-line, there needs to be sufficient proof that it truly can be functioning within the specified timeframe (e.g., contracts are in place and funds are allocated to ensure the project will be completed).
The form has a place for entering transfers.
Adjustments to Conservation Standards (Feb - March 15, 2016)
A new permanent resident is one who occupies a residence in the supplier's service area other than for a temporary or transitory purpose, that was not counted as a permanent resident before 2013. Part-time residents do not count as permanent residents.
Preferably new permanent residents figures will be calculated in the same manner the number of pre-existing permanent residents was calculated for purposes of this emergency regulation, however suppliers may calculate the number of new permanent residents using a persons per connection average or using other sources of verifiable population data if the previously-used method is not available or does not reflect current data.
- The source of supply was developed since 2013
- The use of the source does not reduce the water available to another legal user of water or the environment
- The supply adds to local freshwater resources and is resilient to drought impacts. Types of supplies that add to local freshwater resources and are resilient to drought impacts may include: Seawater desalination, Indirect or direct potable reuse of wastewater, and Desalination of brackish groundwater. Supplies that augment existing freshwater sources, such as conjunctive use, aquifer storage and recovery, and surface water diversion and impoundment, are not eligible for the credit.
A new activated CII connection may include a site that previously had a water account, provided there has been zero potable water use from that location since 2013. This means that in some cases, new CII connections may arise from existing building stock, not just new construction
You do not need to submit further information for the default adjustment to occur. The default adjustment for climate will take effect for any qualifying urban water supplier automatically March 1, 2016 unless the supplier submits the information identified in section 865, subdivision (f)(1)(D) of the regulation to support an in-lieu climate adjustment.
Submissions for adjustments and credit received by March 15, 2016 will be applied to a supplier's March 2016 conservation standard. Information submitted after March 15, 2016 will not be reviewed.
Recycled water used for irrigation and other non-potable applications is not included in the total potable monthly water production numbers used for calculating compliance with a supplier's conservation standard. It helps lower the initial conservation standard. Direct delivery of recycled water prior to 2013 will in most cases have reduced potable water usage, leading to a correspondingly lower initial conservation standard.
We took the average of the default values for all 411 urban water suppliers. This number may be revised based on changes to those default values. We didn't use a population-weighted average because population is not related to evapotranspiration rates.
A cap helps ensure appropriate conservation continues while drought conditions persist.
Regulation on Waste and Unreasonable Water Uses - Pending
Some of the prohibitions on wasteful water use practices that were put in place on a temporary basis during the drought are critical to water resilience. Water is a precious and finite resource that should never be wasted. California droughts are becoming more frequent and persistent, as warmer winter temperatures driven by climate change reduce water held in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and result in drier soil conditions.
The proposed regulation would also implement directives of Executive Orders B-37-16 and B-40-17, which, to eliminate water waste, directed the State Water Board to permanently prohibit certain wasteful water use practices.
The State Water Board first adopted drought emergency conservation regulations in July 2014. Included in these regulations were prohibitions against certain wasteful water use practices. The Board readopted the emergency regulations several times, most recently in February 2017. These remained in place until November 25, 2017. The proposed regulation includes prohibitions similar to those that the Board adopted during the drought emergency (Fact Sheet). There are several differences from the most recent drought emergency prohibitions, including:
- For the provision prohibiting the irrigation of turf on medians and parkways [§ 963(b)(1)(G)], the State Water Board has proposed several changes, including granting communities more time to comply, only affecting publically-owned and maintained medians and parkways, grandfathering-in turf currently irrigated with recycled water, exempting the irrigation of turf under trees, and giving examples of community and neighborhood functions. The proposed revision would read as follows:
- As of January 1, 2025, the irrigation of turf on public street medians or publically owned and maintained landscaped areas between the street and sidewalk, except where: (G)(i) the turf serves a community or neighborhood function, including, but not limited to, recreational uses and civic or community events; or (G)(ii) the turf is irrigated incidentally by an irrigation system, the primary purpose of which is the irrigation of trees; or (G)(iii) the turf is irrigated with recycled water through an irrigation system installed prior to January 1, 2018.
- For the provision prohibiting irrigation during and after rainfall [§ 963(b)(1)(E)], the State Water Board has proposed defining measurable as one-fourth of one inch of rain, which is an appreciable amount of rain. The proposed revision would read as follows:
- The application of water to irrigate turf and ornamental landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall of at least one-fourth of one inch of rain. In determining whether measurable rainfall of at least one-fourth of one inch of rain occurred in a given area, enforcement may be based on records of the National Weather Service, the closest CIMIS station to the parcel, or any other reliable source of rainfall data available to the entity undertaking enforcement of this subdivision.
- For the provision prohibiting the serving of drinking water, unless upon request [§ 963(b)(1)(F)], the State Water Board has proposed that the prohibition only be in-effect during a declared drought emergency. The State Water Board has proposed this revised language:
- The serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars, or other public places where food or drink are served or purchased, during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency under the California Emergency Services Act (Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 8550) of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code) based on drought conditions.
- For the provision affecting runoff [§ 963(b)(1)(A)], the State Water Board has omitted the word potable and added the phrase “more than incidental” so that the revised provision reads as follows:
- The application of water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes more than incidental runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
- For the provision affecting fountains [§ 963(b)(1)(D)], the State Water Board added an exemption for fountains registered on the National Register of Historic Places. The revised provision reads as follows:
- The use of potable water in an ornamental fountain or other decorative water feature, except where: (D)(i) the water is part of a recirculating system; or (D)(ii) the fountain is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
- For the provision affecting residential car washing, the State Water Board omitted the word potable. The provision, unchanged since the proposed regulatory text was first circulated in November 2017, reads as follows:
- The use of a hose that dispenses water to wash a motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use.
Yes, there are three proposed general exemptions that apply to all of the prohibitions: 1) If there is a public health or safety reason to continue the activity, e.g., to wash down a sidewalk or driveway to remove pathogenic waste; 2) If other state or federal permits require the activity; and 3) If water is used exclusively for commercial agricultural purposes. There are also a few specific exemptions that apply to individual prohibitions (see the provisions that cover fountains, median and 'parkways,' and the serving of drinking water).
The Water Board has included the "health and safety" exemption to allow the otherwise prohibited water use practices to address reasonable and legitimate healthy and safety needs. Here are examples of activities where water applications may be necessary to address a health or safety need: controlling dust, suppressing fires, removing pathogenic waste from sidewalks (e.g., animal waste). The Water Board has included the "health and safety" exemption to allow the otherwise prohibited wasteful water use practices to address reasonable and legitimate healthy and safety needs.
Incidental runoff refers to a minimal amount of irrigation water that escapes the area of intended use. This may include minor windblown overspray or mist extending onto sidewalks within a park or minimal runoff from watering trees.
The regulation affects ornamental fountains and decorative water features. The regulation does not affect recreational fountains and water features, such as splash parks. It also does not affect historic fountains on the National Register of Historic Places. Similarly, fountains and splash parks for which there is a legitimate health and safety need for non-recycled or recirculated water, such as fountains that the public are expected to come in contact with and may drink from, are not covered by the prohibition.
No, the regulation does not prohibit the washing of buildings, either with potable water or with recycled water.
The closest weather station or reliable rain gauge may be used to measure rainfall. Furthermore, ¼ inch of rain is enough rain that it can be reasonably forecasted as well as adequately seen on the ground such that an irrigation system can be adjusted appropriately. Nothing in the emergency regulation prevents a water supplier from developing or adopting a more limiting definition of measurable rainfall for their service area.
The prohibition on serving drinking water during a drought emergency applies for drought emergencies issued by the Governor. Check with your local water agency for information on local drought emergencies.
In some instances, irrigating turf on medians provides functional and recreational benefits. For example, in Sacramento, the Capitol Mall is a wide median covered in turf. Concerts, public gatherings, and farmers’ markets occur on Capitol Mall. Another example where irrigated turf on medians or parkways serves a community function is in pocket parks, where the turf provides a place for picnicking, and sports, or other exercise, e.g., Electric Avenue Median Park in Seal Beach. The regulation would not obligate a public agency to irrigate such turf. If, for example, the City of Sacramento wanted to let the turf on Capitol Mall go "California gold" during the hotter months, the regulation would allow for irrigation necessary to maintain that turf at the discretion of the local public agency.
Generally, local land use authorities (e.g. the City or County) will make that determination. A key consideration is whether the turf must be irrigated to provide functional (e.g., a place to hold events) or recreational (e.g., a place for sports and exercise) benefits. Aesthetics alone are not a community or neighborhood function. Many attractive low-water options exist for landscaping medians and parkways.
Yes. The revised proposed regulation allows the incidental irrigation of turf while irrigating trees. Trees provide many social and environmental benefits, such as shade, carbon sequestration, and habitat. Urban trees also reduce energy use by shading buildings, reduce heat island effects and associated health impacts, absorb and filter storm runoff and urban flooding, and protect air quality.
The proposed regulation would not require any particular landscaping changes, including planting new trees on medians or parkways. However, there are programs that provide funding for planting new trees that the State Water Board encourages public agencies to look into if they are contemplating landscape changes in response to the proposed regulation. Climate-appropriate trees not only provide the aforementioned benefits, they also, once established, generally require less water than other trees.
Yes. Some state granting funding is available to help finance tree planting projects. State agencies such as the Water Board, the Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Water Resources and CalFire provide funding for planting trees. So do many local governments and organizations such as ReLeaf or TreePeople.
The effective date in 2025 provides several years for a public entity to make any desired changes to a median or parkway that may entail expense and time. Changes could include planting a low-water alternative to turf or planting trees, if so desired. The State Water Board encourages the planting of climate-appropriate trees. These trees generally require less water than other trees.
Yes, for recycled water irrigation systems installed prior to January 1, 2018. The revised proposed regulation exempts existing recycled systems, but not new ones.
Yes, provided these landscapes are not turf and are designed to use minimal or no irrigation.
Check with your local water agency or report water waste at this webpage: http://www.savewater.ca.gov/
Current law allows public agencies to enforce their own conservation ordinances and rules and drought emergency rules adopted by the State Water Board and, during the recent drought, public entities enforced prohibitions against wasteful water uses. Because the proposed regulation is not a drought emergency regulation, at this time enforcement of the proposed regulation could only come from the State Water Board. Local public agencies can enforce their own conservation rules and modify those rules to mirror the proposed prohibitions, in which case they would be able to enforce those prohibitions. Proposed legislation (SB 606), however, would allow for public agencies to enforce certain rules, such as the prohibitions contained in the proposed regulation, in the same manner they could for the Board’s drought emergency regulations.
(Page last updated 12/27/2021)
Water is a precious resource in California, and maintaining its quality is of utmost importance to safeguard the health of the public and the environment.