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Water Conservation Portal - FAQ

Water Conservation Portal - FAQ

Water Conservation Portal


Water Conservation Topics

When was the Governor's proclamation of drought in effect?

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.

What is State Water Board's Role to Improve Water Efficiency and Make Conservation a Way of Life?

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."

Why are prohibitions on wasteful water practices still in place?

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.

What are the prohibitions that apply to all Californians?
  • 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.

What prohibitions apply to businesses?

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.

When do prohibitions on wasteful water practices expire?

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.

How can I be informed of the rulemaking process?

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.")

Now that the Governor's drought declaration has been lifted, are cities allowed to issue citations to residents or commercial properties for letting lawns go brown?

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.

Can my HOA force me to replace water-efficient landscaping that was installed during the drought?

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.

Does a local water-efficient ordinance established by a local water agency supersede HOA requirements?

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.

How do I know what drought stage applies in my neighborhood?

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.

How will the ban on new sprinklers - other than drip or microspray - be implemented?

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.

How is a "median" defined?

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.

How is "measurable rainfall" defined?

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.

What is a drought-year and how do we count them over multiple years?

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

Water Supplier Topics


Do large urban water suppliers still submit monthly reports to the State Water Board?

Yes, monthly reporting continues as long as water conservation regulation is in effect and requires reporting.

Can you provide an updated Excel spreadsheet with the reported figures for retail water agencies for the last reporting period?

There is a time lag from when the State Water Board receives reports to when we are able to post this information in an Excel document.  Water suppliers report their water production figures for a given month to the Board by the 15th of the subsequent month, and we usually post those numbers in the updated Excel spreadsheet by the end of that month. Check this webpage for current information: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/conservation_portal/conservation_reporting.shtml

What is the Difference between an Urban Water Supplier and a Small Water Supplier?

Urban water suppliers serve more than 3,000 service connections or deliver more than 3,000 acre-feet of water in a year. There are over 400 urban water suppliers in the state. Small water suppliers serve 15 to 2,999 service connections or deliver less than 3,000 acre-feet of water in a year. There are over 2,900 small water suppliers through the state.

What is Residential Gallons Per Capita per Day (R-GPCD) and how is it calculated?

R-GPCD is the number of gallons of water per person per day used by the residential customers a supplier serves. R-GPCD is calculated using the following equation:

[(TMP*PRU) / TPS] / number of days in the month

Where: TMP is the Total Monthly Potable Water Production
PRU is the Percent Residential Use
TPS is the Total Population Served

What Are The Reporting Requirements For Urban Water Suppliers?

Governor’s Executive Order B-40-17 directs the State Water Board to maintain urban water use reporting requirements. 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

Are there reporting requirements for small suppliers?

Small suppliers have reporting requirements through other programs such as the Division of Drinking Water’s Electronic Annual Reporting that occurs each spring.

Can a water district be reclassified as a small water supplier, if they meet the definition now, but didn't before?

Yes, a large urban water supplier can become a small water supplier if they consistently deliver less than 3000 acre feet of water to fewer than 3000 customers.

Is there an exception for urban water suppliers that provide water to commercial agriculture?

Yes. Urban water suppliers delivering potable water to commercial agriculture may be allowed to modify the amount of water subject to their conservation standard. To be eligible, urban water suppliers must do all of the following:

  • Provide written certification to the State Water Board to be able to subtract the water supplied to commercial agriculture from their total potable water production for baseline conservation purposes;
  • Impose water use reductions for commercial agricultural users served by the supplier;
  • Report the amount of water supplied for commercial agricultural use monthly; and
  • Comply with the Agricultural Management Plan requirement in the Governor's April 1, 2015 Executive Order.

Low-Income Rate Assistance Program (AB401, 2016)

What is the Low-Income Rate Assistance Program? When will it be available?

Assembly Bill 401 (Dodd, 2015) directs the State Water Board to prepare a plan, with the State Board of Equalization, that covers funding and implementation of a Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program. This Plan is due by January 1, 2018. Additionally, AB 401 directs the State Water Board to report to the Legislature by February 1, 2018 on its findings regarding the feasibility, financial stability, and desired structure of the program, including any recommendations for legislative action. Go HERE for more information.

Compliance and Enforcement Topics

If an urban water supplier does not submit a monthly report it is subject to the $500/day fine?

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


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