Cities, districts, public utilities and other urban water suppliers would have to limit landscape irrigation by customers and enforce other water use restrictions under emergency regulations proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) on July 8, 2014.
The proposed restrictions would prohibit:
- The application of water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
- The use of a hose to wash an automobile, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;
- The application of water to any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt; and
- The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, except where the water is part of a recirculating system.
However, the preceding restrictions would not apply where they are necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency.
The restrictions would apply to all “urban water suppliers,” which Water Code section 10617 defines as “a supplier, either publicly or privately owned, providing water for municipal purposes either directly or indirectly to more than 3,000 customers or supplying more than 3,000 acre-feet water annually.” An urban water supplier includes “a supplier or contractor for water, regardless of the basis of right, which distributes or sells for ultimate resale to customers.”
Fines And Penalties:
A water customer’s violation of water use restrictions would be considered infractions punishable by fines of $500 for each day in which the violation occurs. Any employee of a public agency charged with enforcing laws could write and issue a ticket to the violator, under the proposed regulations.
Water suppliers that violate the regulation’s mandatory requirements could be subject to cease and desist orders with fines up to $10,000 per day per violation, according to the State Water Board. Or, the matter could be referred to the Attorney General’s office for further action, the State Water Board said.
Comments Due July 14:
Comments on the proposed regulations are due by noon on July 14, 2014. The State Water Board will consider whether to adopt the proposed regulations at its July 15, 2014, meeting. If adopted, the regulations would take effect on or about August 1, 2014, and would remain in effect for up to 270 days (approximately mid-April 2015).
The prohibition on runoff of outdoor irrigation water is necessary to promote water conservation to address the drought emergency, according to the State Water Board.
A prohibition on vehicle washing with a running hose (a hose that is not equipped with a shut-off nozzle) promotes water conservation to address the drought emergency through the use of more efficient and effective washing techniques and options, according to the State Water Board.
A prohibition on watering of hardscapes, such as driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt, promotes water conservation to address the drought emergency through the use of more efficient and effective cleaning methods for hardscapes, according to the State Water Board.
A prohibition on the use of potable water without recirculation pumps for fountains and other decorative water fixtures promotes water conservation to address the drought emergency through saving water that would evaporate, leak, or not be reused, according to the State Water Board.
Water Shortage Contingency Plan Mandate:
To reduce water demand, the regulations would require urban water suppliers to implement their Water Shortage Contingency Plans at a level that triggers mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use. Almost all urban water suppliers have these plans; about 40 of these larger agencies do not, the State Water Board said. One of the options for mandatory use restrictions is limiting outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week, under the regulations.
If an urban water supplier does not have a Water Shortage Contingency Plan or its Plan does not meet the requirements of the water code, the supplier must, within 30 days, require customers to limit outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week or implement another mandatory conservation measure to achieve a comparable reduction in water consumption by the people it serves relative to the amount consumed in 2013.
Small Retail Water Suppliers Affected:
Water suppliers serving fewer than 3,000 connections must also, within 30 days, require customers to limit outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week or implement another mandatory conservation measure to achieve a comparable reduction in water consumption by the people it serves relative to the amount consumed in 2013.
Retail Water Suppliers To Report Water Savings Data:
The proposed regulation to require urban water suppliers with 3,000 or more service connections to provide the Board with monthly potable water production figures along with a calculation of gallons per capita per day (GPCD) is necessary so that the Board can track the effectiveness of the proposed regulations and urban water conservation actions. Each urban water supplier will keep track of its water use and compare it to the same period last year. Reports that include the amount of potable water the supplier produced in the preceding month and an estimate of gallons of water per person per day used by its customers will be submitted to the State Water Board by the 15th of each month.
Financial Impact On Water Suppliers:
Since the proposed regulations are estimated to achieve as much as a 20 percent reduction in water use it follows that the proposed regulations could result in a reduction in water sales by local government agencies of 403,200 acre-feet per year (i.e, 20% of 2.016 MAF). The estimate of decreased sales revenues due to the proposed regulations is $438,185,664.00.
Educating Water Service Customers:
The State Water Board is providing the following tips to water suppliers to educate their customers about the new requirements:
- Retail water suppliers should provide notice of the regulations in English and Spanish in one or more of the following ways: newspaper advertisements, bill inserts, website homepage, social media, notices in public libraries;
- Wholesale suppliers should include reference to the regulations in all of their customer communications;
- All water suppliers should provide signage where recycled or reclaimed water is being used for activities that the emergency regulations prohibit with the use of potable water, such as operation of fountains and other water features;
- All water suppliers should train personnel on the regulations; and
- All water suppliers should set conservation targets, measure their service area’s progress and make this information available to their customers.
If you have any questions concerning this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.