California Water Resources Control Board Adopts Emergency Water Conservation Regulation

May 26, 2022

The new regulation bans irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, among other water conservation measures 

The California Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency water conservation regulation following Governor Gavin Newsom's Mar. 28 Executive Order.

According to the press release, the regulation "will ensure more aggressive conservation by local water agencies across the state."

The new regulation:

  • Bans irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties;
  • Requires all urban water suppliers to implement conservation actions under Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans; and
  • Does not include watering turf for recreation or community spaces, water used at residences or to maintain trees.

In March 2022, the state’s urban retail water suppliers reported average water use statewide that was nearly 19% greater than in March 2020, reported the press release. This lowered the state’s cumulative water savings since July 2021 to 3.7%. Governor Newsom encouraged the state’s largest urban water suppliers to take more aggressive action to combat drought, and these suppliers will be provided new options to reduce water waste as well.

“The severity of this drought requires all Californians to save water in every possible way,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board in the press release. “The regulation compels water systems and local authorities to implement a range of additional critical conservation measures as we enter the hot and dry summer months.”

Level 2 water shortage contingency plans address up to a 20% shortage of water supplies, according to the press release.

The regulation also requires urban water suppliers to "fast-track supply and demand assessments to plan for potential extended dry conditions."

Once approved, the water conservation regulation will be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law for approval, reported the press release. Once this occurs, the ban on non-functional turf is effective and Level 2 requirements for urban water suppliers will likely take effect on June 10, 2022.

Suppliers will be provided new options to reduce water waste if they choose to use them. Additionally, people who see water waste are asked to report it at, reported the press release.

According to The California Water Resources Control Board, Level 2 actions entail:

  • Limiting outdoor irrigation to certain days or hours;
  • Increasing patrolling to identify water waste;
  • Enforcing water-use prohibitions; and
  • Increasing communication about the importance of water conservation.

Approximately half of the state’s 436 water suppliers have not yet activated Level 2 actions, reported The California Water Resources Control Board. Meanwhile, 36 have not submitted drought plans.

The emergency water conservation regulation requires that suppliers without drought plans are expected to start: "conducting outreach to customers about conservation; restricting outdoor irrigation to two days a week; and enforcing against wasteful water practices."

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Cristina Tuser