Executive Order B-37-16, Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life
, comes at the conclusion of California Wildfire Awareness Week
as the state enters the time of year when water resources are used the most to fight fires, irrigate landscaping and recreate.
California is now in its fifth year of drought and the Governor wants to make water conservation a permanent way of life. He issued his first mandatory water restrictions in April 2015
after proclaiming a state of emergency on Jan. 17, 2014
Under the executive order issued today, Governor Brown is directing the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to develop proposed emergency water restrictions for 2017 if drought conditions persist. He is looking to build on the overall 20 percent urban water reductions by 2020 that are already in place. Urban water suppliers will be permanently required to submit a monthly report on water usage, conservation achieved as well as enforcement. The Governor in his press release
noted that Californians reduced water usage by 23.9 percent between June 2015-March 2016 compared with the same months in 2013.
The Governor wants a proposal to make these restrictions farther reaching and permanent by Jan. 10, 2017. Cities and water agencies will be at the table working with the Governor’s Administration to craft a workable plan for all Californians.
Today’s executive order also permanently establishes policies that prohibit the use of potable (drinkable) water for:
- Housing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes;
- Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle;
- Using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature;
- Water lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation; and
- Irrigating ornamental turf on street medians.
The final provision has had some unintended consequences. Many cities have turned off irrigation on their medians entirely, instead of just irrigation to water grass. This has resulted in damage to trees, shrubs and other drought tolerant landscaping that has withered without any watering.
The Governor’s Executive Order comes on the same day SWRCB released draft regulations
that would make significant changes to the Feb. 2 emergency water conservation standard. The draft regulations remove the mandatory conservation standard and replace it with a sliding scale based on projected water supply shortages over the next three years. Water suppliers would then be required to reduce potable water use in a percentage equal to their projected shortfall. Additional information can be found on a SWRCB fact sheet
SWRCB will consider the draft regulations at its May 18 hearing. If adopted, the new conservation standard would take effect in June and remain in effect until January 2017.
The League will continue to update members as developments occur related to crafting a permanent water conservation plan.