Gov. Brown Makes Drought Water Rationing Permanent

FILE - In this May 1, 2014 file photo, irrigation water runs along the dried-up ditch between the rice farms to provide water for the rice fields in Richvale, Calif. The federal government will be pouring nearly a quarter-billion dollars into several dozen projects aimed at tackling the effects of …
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Newport Beach, CA

California Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that will force water districts and municipalities to permanently adopt even more aggressive water rationing level than during the state’s 5-year drought.

The San Jose Mercury reported that Brown issued a press statement that a changing environment means the state must begin to conserve water resources in preparation for the next drought. Brown started: “We have efficiency goals for energy and cars – and now we have them for water.”

Gov. Brown signing AB 1668 sponsored by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and SB 606 sponsored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), will require California’s urban water districts, large agricultural water districts and municipal governments to develop plans for strict annual water budgets by January 1, 2020; start implementing long-term water use efficiency standards by June 30, 2022; and achieve their assigned water rationing goals beginning in 2027.

Water conservation director for the Natural Resources Defense Council Tracy Quinn said that the combined daily indoor and outdoor water use has already dropped from 109 gallons a day in 2013, to about 90 gallons a day in 2017.

But the State Water Resources Control Board in coordination with the Department of Water Resources now has the authority to set much more aggressive mandatory water use levels based according to three factors: 1) an initial indoor water allowance of 55 gallons per person per day — dropping to 50 gallons by 2030; 2) an outdoor residential amount set by regional climates and; 3) a set standard for systemwide pipe leak losses.

Failure by any water district or municipality to meet its 2027 mandatory water rationing goals may result in $1,000 per day fines in normal years and $10,000 a day during inevitable drought emergencies.

The Mercury News reported that water districts were angry with the 8 percent to 36 percent mandatory water rationing cuts ordered by Gov. Brown during the drought because water targets were inflexible and did not take into consideration regional factors.

Negotiations over the last few months led to an agreement between business interests, water districts, and environmentalists. Leading advocates for the deal include the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area Council for the business side, the Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for water agencies; and Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council for the greens.

Many environmentalists, like the Sierra Club, still oppose the final deal because the rationing was not more severe, and anger remains over the cities and districts that inserted a 15 percent water credit for production of recycled water that was inserted late in the negotiations.

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