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May 23, 2016  |  Written by Brittany Lewis-Roberts

Governor Issues New Executive Order on Drought As State Water Board Adopts New Localized Approach to Emergency Conservation Regulations

On May 9, 2016, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-37-16, providing updated directives to state agencies on increasing long-term water conservation in California and planning for continued drought into 2017.

The Executive Order includes many provisions aimed at making conservation a permanent practice of and requirement for water suppliers. For example, the Executive Order requires the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop a permanent framework for new water use targets for urban water agencies. The new targets must generate more statewide water conservation than existing requirements and build upon the existing requirement to achieve a 20% reduction in urban water use by 2020. DWR must issue a proposed framework by January 10, 2017.

The Executive Order also requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to update the requirements for Agricultural Water Management Plans and permanently require the completion of such plans by agricultural water suppliers with over 10,000 irrigated acres. The updated draft requirements must also be prepared and released by January 10, 2017. Similarly, the Executive Order requires DWR to update and strengthen requirements for urban Water Shortage Contingency Plans by January 10, 2017.

With respect to the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), the Executive Order directed the State Water Board to take several actions, including developing a proposal to achieve a mandatory 25% reduction in potable urban water use; prioritizing loans from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects that reduce leaks and water system losses; and updating and revising the emergency conservation regulations for continuance into 2017.

Regarding the latter mandate, on May 9, 2016, the State Water Board released draft extended emergency conservation regulations that would amend the emergency regulations adopted by the Board on February 2, 2016, and extend the conservation requirements through January 2017. The State Water Board then adopted the extended conservation regulations at the May 18, 2016 board meeting.

The extended regulations continue the prohibitions on applying potable water to landscapes in a manner that causes runoff, to driveways and sidewalks, to ornamental turf on public street medians, or to landscapes within 48 hours of measurable precipitation, among other restrictions. In addition, the extended regulations offer a localized approach to conservation standards for urban water suppliers, in contrast to the state-developed mandatory restrictions in the previous versions of the regulations.

Urban water suppliers that choose to comply with the individualized standard are required to submit a self-certified report to the State Water Board by June 22, 2016, that identifies the supplier’s total potable water demand and the total potable water supply for each of the next three years, assuming three more dry years along with other assumptions provided in the regulations. The supplier’s conservation standard is then equal to the percentage by which the supplier’s total potable water supply is insufficient to meet the total potable water demand in the third year. Alternatively, if the water supplier chooses not to identify and report an individualized conservation standard, then the supplier is subject to the state-developed conservation standards, categorized by residential gallons per capita per day.

The new conservation standards go into effect in June of 2016 and remain in effect until January of 2017. For more information on the implications of the Governor’s Executive Order and the State Water Board’s new conservation regulations, please contact Brittany Lewis-Roberts at blewis-roberts@somachlaw.com.

Somach Simmons & Dunn provides the information in its Environmental Law & Policy Alerts and on its website for informational purposes only. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice, and users should consult with legal counsel for specific advice. In addition, using this information or sending electronic mail to Somach Simmons & Dunn or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship with Somach Simmons & Dunn.

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