Where do we stand with Water Regulations?
A little confusion is understandable, maybe even inevitable, especially among casual observers of California’s lingering drought.
For several years, as we’ve endured a record-setting drought, the calls for water conservation have grown increasingly urgent – culminating last year with the first ever State Water Board emergency order imposing statewide mandatory conservation measures and conservation percentage targets.
Fast forward past an El Niño winter that produced mixed results (wet in the north, not so much in the south) and California remains, technically, in a drought that may extend for another year, or two, or three…or more. In the wake of El Niño, the State has again modified its emergency order, allowing local water agencies to evaluate their available supplies under a set of assumed conditions looking ahead for three years.
Thanks to proactive planning, supply acquisition and storage development efforts in prior years, Castaic Lake Water Agency and your local water retailers have identified sufficient supplies to get through at least the next three years – even if the drought drags on. Building a diverse water supply portfolio has been an ongoing effort for all of the SCV water suppliers, even before this drought.
Those efforts have paid off. As outlined in our Urban Water Management Plan, your suppliers have identified sustainable ways to use local aquifers in conjunction with the State Water Project, including other sources of imported and banked water.
So, the local water retailers no longer face state-imposed, agency-specific conservation targets – and some of the mandatory conservation measures that became a fact of life over the past year, like the restricted watering days, may be lifted on an agency-by-agency basis.
Even in easing the conservation percentages, the state has still left quite a few mandatory water use restrictions in place. We still collectively have to meet an earlier state-mandated 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020 – a requirement that was enacted by state legislation (SBx7-7) in 2009, predating the current drought. And if that wasn’t enough of a goal, the Governor has ordered further work in the next year on setting new conservation goals and standards that will go beyond the “20 by 2020” standard. The need remains to manage water wisely.
Here are four key points to know:
- Some Water Uses Permanently Banned: The Governor has left many prohibitions in place and they are considered permanent. They include bans on irrigation runoff, washing vehicles without shut-off nozzles, hosing down driveways and sidewalks, non-recirculating fountains, watering within 48 hours after rainfall, serving of water in restaurants other than upon request, and irrigation of ornamental turf in medians.
- Long-Term Sustainability: We advocate an ongoing ethic of water use efficiency – a long-term, sustainable approach, even in the absence of an event-driven (drought) emergency. When people think of “conservation,” they tend to think of it as a temporary activity. We’re advocating “efficiency” as a way of life.
- Short-Term Percentage-Based Targets Dropped: While the long-term target of 20% by 2020 remains, there are no longer State mandated target conservation percentages for the water retail agencies (Newhall County Water District, Santa Clarita Water Division, Valencia Water Co. and L.A. County Waterworks District #No. 36 (Val Verde)). The targets were dropped because we’ve identified sufficient water resources for at least the next three years.
- Watering Restrictions May Be Lifted: Each individual water retailer is responsible for determining whether to lift the restrictions and, when all is said and done, it appears they may be lifted valley wide. Check with your own water retailer to see the current watering schedule and look for messaging on your water bills for up-to-date information regarding the drought. We’re still advocating careful management of outdoor water use, which represents the greatest opportunity to improve efficiency.
The bottom line: Water savings depends on everyone, including you! Even though we no longer have state-imposed agency-by-agency targets, we are still in a drought and we still need to reach a 20% reduction in water use by 2020. We’ve made good progress toward the goal valley wide – your water agencies have met the state benchmarks for progress toward the 20% by 2020 goal – but that progress could be lost if water use rebounds from current levels in the perceived absence of conservation targets.
We’re advocating for permanent water use efficiency. This includes installing high-efficiency toilets and appliances, low-flow shower heads, efficient irrigation equipment, and practicing efficient outdoor water use.
It makes sense to continue good habits developed as a result of the drought – using water with care, recognizing it as a valuable resource to be managed regardless of whether we’re in a drought. If efficiency becomes a lifestyle, the percentages will take care of themselves.
The Santa Clarita Valley Family of Water Suppliers consists of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Newhall County Water District, Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 36, Santa Clarita Water Division, and the Valencia Water Company.
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