According to Daniel Berc, NOAA Federal Weather Meteorologist, at this moment in time, Southern California’s drought threat has been put to bed. Add to that there are high expectations we will be entering into an El Niño winter, making it easy for one to sit back and put the worries of water to rest.
Not so fast…
Did you know that California has recently passed new laws to address future drought concerns? It’s true, and it will impact all of us starting January 2024. These new bills labeled, “Water Efficiency Legislation,” will make California more resilient to impacts of future droughts and intend to “make water conservation a California way of life.”
These Bills—SB 606 (Hertzberg) and AB 1668 (Friedman)— reflect the dedicated work of many water suppliers, environmental organizations, and members of the Legislature. SB 606 and AB 1668 emphasize efficiency and stretching existing water supplies in our cities and on farms. They claim that efficient water use is the most cost-effective way to achieve long term conservation goals, as well as provide the water supply reliability needed to adapt to the longer and more intense droughts climate change is causing in California.
Some have misinterpreted the immediate impact of this law. It does not impose individual mandates for homeowners or businesses. The mandates will fall on urban water suppliers – not customers. However, one must consider that many desert areas are comprised of Water Districts, which in essence, are community owned, and therefore directly absorb the brunt of any punitive actions for non-compliance.
What are the specific requirements for urban and agricultural water suppliers? Specifically, the bills call for creation of new urban efficiency standards for indoor use, outdoor use, and water lost to leaks, as well as any appropriate variances for unique local conditions. Using the adopted standards, each urban retail water agency will annually, beginning January 1, 2024, calculate its own objective, based on the water needed in its service area for efficient indoor residential water use, outdoor residential water use, commercial, industrial and institutional irrigation with dedicated meters, and reasonable amounts of system water loss, along with consideration of other unique local uses (i.e., variances) and a “bonus incentive,” or credit, for potable water reuse.