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Water Conservation Portal


Regulation on Waste and Unreasonable Water Uses - Current

Why is the State Water Board permanently prohibiting these wasteful water use practices?

Some of the prohibitions on wasteful water use practices that were put in place on a temporary basis during the drought are common sense measures that should apply at all times. After all, 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. To increase our resilience to future droughts, Californians must use water more wisely and efficiently.

The proposed regulation would advance the California Water Action Plan, which laid the roadmap to Make Water Conservation A California Way of Life.

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.

How are the prohibitions in the proposed permanent regulation different from the prohibitions in the drought emergency water conservation regulations?

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.

Are there exemptions from the prohibitions under certain circumstances?

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).

What are examples of health and safety needs?

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.

What is "incidental runoff" and what are some examples?

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.

Does the regulation affect all fountains?

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.

The regulation prohibits the application of potable water directly to driveways and sidewalks. Does that particular provision apply to other hardscapes such as buildings?

No, the regulation does not prohibit the washing of buildings, either with potable water or with recycled water.

How will I know if "measurable" rainfall of ¼ of an inch has been reached locally?

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 provision prohibiting the serving of drinking water unless upon request now only applies during a drought emergency. Does it apply to local drought emergencies or only state-declared drought emergencies?

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.

The regulation prohibits the irrigation of turf on medians and "the area between the street and sidewalk" (i.e., parkways), unless the turf serves a community or neighborhood function. Under what circumstances would irrigated turf on medians and parkways serve a community or neighborhood function?

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.

Who determines whether irrigating turf on a median or 'parkway' serves a "community or neighborhood function"?

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.

Will the prohibition on irrigating turf on public street medians or publicly owned and maintained landscaped areas between the street and sidewalk (parkways) allow communities to irrigate trees?

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.

What kind of trees should be planted in the medians and "parkways"?

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.

Is funding available to plant 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.

Why does the provision prohibiting the irrigation of turf on medians and "parkways" not become effective until January 1, 2025?

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.

Will the prohibition on irrigating turf in medians and "parkways" allow use of recycled water?

Yes, for recycled water irrigation systems installed prior to January 1, 2018.  The revised proposed regulation exempts existing recycled systems, but not new ones.

Will the prohibition on irrigationing turf in medians and "parkways" allow irrigation of low-impact development or green infrastructure (e.g., rain gardens or bio-swales)?

Yes, provided these landscapes are not turf and are designed to use minimal or no irrigation.

Where can someone report water waste or violations of these prohibitions?

Check with your local water agency or report water waste at this webpage: http://www.savewater.ca.gov/ 

Can local jurisdictions enforce this regulation?

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.       

Water Supplier Topics


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

No, monthly reporting is no longer required effective November 25, 2017, when the drought emergency regulation expired.  However, we encourage suppliers to continue reporting in the interim as Governor Brown's Executive Orders B-37-16 and B-40-17 direct the State Water Board to permanently require urban water suppliers to report monthly on their water usage, conservation achieved and enforcement efforts, and current legislation (SB 606) includes specific provisions regarding water use and conservation reporting.  Please note that expiration of the drought emergency reporting requirement has no effect on any other separate reporting obligations.

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

Where are directions for submitting monthly conservation reports?

Urban water suppliers may continue to submit monthly conservation report by the 15th of each month, using the same on-line tool as in prior months: http://drinc.ca.gov/dnn/Applications/PublicWaterSystems/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.


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