California water regulators could relax statewide conservation rules even as the state enters a likely fifth year of record drought.
The State Water Resources Control Board announced Monday that it would consider slashing conservation targets for cities that have invested in water recycling and desalination projects, according to Southern California Public Radio (SCPR).
Each of the state’s roughly 400 water agencies have been required to cut back by a certain percentage to meet a statewide 25 percent reduction target. But that state target could fall to as low as 22 percent if enough agencies apply for reduced targets.
Some leaders in communities like San Diego and Orange County have complained that individual water cutback targets have not taken into account new investments in water recycling and reuse technology. For example, the city of Carlsbad is home to a new $1 billion desalination plant that will provide up to seven percent of the city’s water needs as it ramps up production following its opening this month. San Diego public utility officials have reportedly written state regulators asking them to consider revising the city’s conservation target.
The water agency reporting requirements are set to expire in February. However, earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order giving the State Water Board the authority to extend the conservation rules as they see fit. The Board is currently deciding whether to keep conservation rules in effect even after the drought ends, essentially making them permanent.
The conservation rules have been an unqualified success in the four months since state water agencies began complying with the reporting requirement. Overall, the state has reduced water use by 28.1 percent, more than the 25 percent required and 70 percent of the way toward its end-of-year target.