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July 23, 2014  |  Written by Brittany Lewis-Roberts

State Board Adopts Emergency Conservation Regulations for Urban Water Suppliers

On July 15, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency conservation regulations to reduce outdoor water uses as extreme drought conditions continue.  In addition to prohibiting certain outdoor uses of potable water, the emergency regulations impose conservation and reporting requirements on urban water suppliers and smaller municipal water distributors.

The emergency regulations prohibit the application of potable water to outdoor landscaping in a manner that results in runoff; the use of potable water to clean hardscapes like sidewalks and driveways; and the use of potable water in decorative water features without recirculation pumps.  There is an exception for situations where the water use is necessary for health and safety reasons, or where the action is required by a permit issued by a state or federal agency.  Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $500 per day.

The emergency regulations also mandate action by “urban water suppliers,” defined as suppliers functioning in a retail capacity that provide municipal water to more than 3,000 customers or that supply more than 3,000 acre-feet annually.  Urban water suppliers must activate their water shortage contingency plans to a stage that imposes mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation of landscaping with potable water.  If an urban water supplier does not have an approved water shortage contingency plan, then it must limit outdoor irrigation of landscaping by its customers to no more than two days per week, or implement other conservation measures that achieve a comparable reduction in water consumption.  Smaller distributors of a public water supply that do not meet the definition of “urban water supplier” must also take the same actions to limit outdoor irrigation of landscaping to two days per week, or implement comparable conservation measures.

Under the new regulations, urban water suppliers must prepare and submit monitoring reports to the State Board on a monthly basis, detailing the amount of potable water provided by a wholesaler and the amount produced by the urban water supplier for the preceding month as well as the same calendar month in 2013.  The monitoring report must also include an estimate of the gallons of water per person per day used by residential customers.

The State Board has submitted the adopted regulations to the Office of Administrative Law for approval.  If the emergency regulations are approved, they will be effective for 270 days, unless they are continued by the State Board because of ongoing drought conditions.

For more information about the new requirements, please contact Brittany Lewis-Roberts atblewis-roberts@somachlaw.com.

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