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State Conservation Regulations

Governor Brown signed into law SB 606 and AB 1668, ushering in a new era of state oversight of water use. These bills were necessitated by the severity of the recent drought and the growing evidence that California is becoming hotter, precipitation is becoming more erratic, and California will need to be prepared for multi-year or even decade-long droughts.  

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What You Need to Know About the State Regulations

Based on industry recommendations, the state set a provisional standard for indoor water use of 55 gallons per person per day. This standard was based on a report produced by the Water Research Foundation. To ensure that this standard is reasonable, the state will be funding a research study to determine an appropriate budget.

The state is also developing an outdoor water usage standard based on irrigated area and other factors like local climate conditions.

Based on these standards, all water districts will be given a maximum water budget for their agency. The budgets are being developed currently, with a draft budget expected January 2021, and the final budget at the end of 2021. While the state is developing the standards, we will be developing the tools and processes necessary to track and stay within the budget.  

Proposals also include a requirement for each agency to develop a five-year drought plan, including conservation strategies necessary to achieve conservation levels that range from ten percent up to, and beyond, percent reduction in water usage.

Check out our Water Shortage Contingency Plan.

What does this mean for me?

These regulations will be coming into play over the next several years. Until our water allowance is issued by the State in 2021, we will not know for sure what conservation levels will be necessary. Early indications are that we may well have to conserve in the future as much water as we did during the recent drought.

The program will be fully in effect by 2027, and the State will have the ability to fine water agencies $1,000 a day or up to $10,000 a day during a drought. It will be the responsibility of the City water agency to stay within our assigned budget. The new law and water budget will require changes in how the City water agency operates and may require us to set individual residential water budgets to ensure that we can comply. We will be working over the coming years to develop and implement the systems needed to meet these new standards.

New Water-Use Efficiency Legislation FAQs

Q. What are urban water use budgets?

A. Starting in 2023, urban water suppliers (CalAm, CalWater and the City of Thousand Oaks Water agency) will be required to each submit a calculated urban water-use budget to the state, based on residential water use efficiency standards for indoor and outdoor water use. Urban water suppliers will be required to meet their water use budgets by 2024.

Q. Will the state issue these urban water-use budgets to individual water users?

A. No. The water-use budgets are for local water suppliers’ system-wide, aggregate water use. There is no requirement in these bills that individual households must adhere to a specific water-use standard. However, many water suppliers have already implemented individual water-use budgets, and more are expected to implement these to ensure that the water supplier’s budget is fairly applied across all customers.

Q. Will individual water users be fined for exceeding water-use budget?

A. No. The bills establish possible fines, starting in 2027, on local water agencies that have not meet their water-use budget. These fines would be levied on the agencies, not individuals. Agencies may choose to impose fines or a surcharge on residents that exceed an agency-established threshold.

Q. How will local water agencies meet these new urban water use budgets?

A. Each year, local water agencies like the City of Thousand Oaks will be responsible for ensuring our aggregate water use meets our budget, and helping customers use water efficiently.

Q. How will the state’s water efficiency standards be calculated?

A. Water efficiency standards are being developed through research and public input. The indoor budget will is based on a provisional* standard of 55 gallons of water a day per person in each household. The outdoor budget is still being determined but will account for local climate and the number of irrigable (landscaped) acres in the district’s service area. Variances for special circumstances will also be allowed.

In 2025, the indoor standard is provisionally* scheduled to change to 52.5 gallons of water a day per person, and in 2030, to 50 gallons.

*The state set the provisional standards based on national research conducted by the Water Education Foundation. Prior to implementing the final standard, the state will be conducting a study to determine an appropriate California standard.

Q. Is it easy to limit indoor water use to 55 gallons per person per day?

A. Based on industry estimates, many households already meet this standard. The Alliance for Water Efficiency has an online water calculator that will help customers estimate how much water is used in their household. Households with water-efficient appliances are likely using 55 gallons or less per person per day.

Remember, the state water efficiency standards will use this calculation to develop an aggregate goal for water agencies. For example, a local water agency with 1,000 connections that is serving a population of 2,500 people would have a water-use budget based on 2,500 X 55 gallons per day (plus outdoor budget).

Q. Will commercial water users be required to use water more efficiently?

A. Yes.  By 2022, the state will adopt water use efficiency performance measures for various commercial, industrial and institutional (schools, parks, etc.) water users.

Q. Will agricultural water users be required to use water more efficiently?

A. Yes.  Every five years, agricultural water suppliers will be required to update their management plans to include an annual water budget, drought contingency actions, and actions to reduce water loss and improve system efficiency.

Q. Who can I talk with at my local water agency to get more information?

A. Contact John Brooks at 805-449-2472 or Send e-mail.