Environment / Nature

New water efficiency standards being developed in California

Two laws highlight water efficiency and conservation and are meant to outline certain roles and actions to be carried out by the California Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resource Control Board and water suppliers.

This article was contributed by Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager with the Water Resources Association San Benito County, San Benito County Water District.

In 2018, two laws were passed to aid California in making water conservation a way of life: SB 606 and AB 1668. These two laws highlight water efficiency and conservation and are meant to outline certain roles and actions to be carried out by the California Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resource Control Board and water suppliers.

“SB 606 and AB 1668 emphasize efficiency and stretching existing water supplies in our cities and on farms,” states a California Water Board fact sheet. “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.”

The bills call for “new urban efficiency standards for indoor use, outdoor use, and water lost to leaks, as well as any appropriate variances for unique local conditions,” according to the fact sheet. “The State Water Board will adopt these standards by regulation no later than June 30, 2022, after full and robust public and stakeholder processes.”

Each urban water supplier, starting in November of 2023, will 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 (CII) irrigation with dedicated meters and reasonable amounts of system water loss from leaks, the fact sheet states. In determining their objectives, water suppliers will also consider other unique local uses and credits for potable water reuse, based on standards adopted by the state water board.

Here are some things to know about SB 606 and AB 1668:

  • These laws do not set limits on personal water use. They set mandates for water suppliers to use when budgeting and planning for efficiency.
  • The 55 gallons per person, per day standard for indoor residential water use is not intended as an enforceable standard for individuals. It is only used to help water suppliers calculate the overall efficiency standard for their service area.
  • Outdoor efficiency standards for residential water use are still being worked on. These standards are more difficult to develop due to the different climates in the state and larger lot sizes in some areas compared to others.
  • There is no law against showering and doing laundry in the same day. Individuals are not held to any specific standard for water use; it will fall on the water supplier to meet specific targets.
  • Any fines issued for not meeting the specified cumulative standard will be issued to the water supplier, not the individual.

The Water Resources Association of San Benito County (WRASBC) was formed in 1999 to establish water conservation and water resource protection programs for its members. The Member Agencies of this organization are the city of Hollister, city of San Juan Bautista, Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District.

At the time the WRASBC was formed, water use in the Hollister Urban Area (city of Hollister and Sunnyslope service areas) was 212 gallons per capita per day* (gpcd). Through programs that includes toilet exchanges (for pre-1992 toilets), low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, leak checks, irrigation and water softener assistance, educational programs for schools and outreach, the WRASBC has assisted in lowering daily water use in the Hollister Urban Area  to 103 gpcd as of 2015**.

Since residential landscape irrigation is approximately 50% of all residential water use, that means we are using approximately 51.5 gpcd for indoor water use in the Hollister Urban Area. Under the 55 gpcd for indoor water use that this legislation targets.

That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels plus the landscape irrigation targets for the residential sector have yet to be calculated. Continue to monitor your water use and take advantage of the programs and services offered by the WRASBC so we can truly make water conservation a way of life for our community.

*San Benito County WD, Groundwater Management Plan, April 1998

**2015 Hollister Urban Area Urban Management Plan

Shawn Novack

Shawn Novack is the Director of the Water Resources Association of San Benito County. The Association represents the City of Hollister, the City of San Juan Bautista, the Sunnyslope County Water District and the San Benito County Water District for all their water conservation and water resource protection programs. Shawn has been in the field of water conservation for 18 years. He has a certification as a Water Conservation Practioner from the American Water Works Association California/Nevada Chapter. He also is a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor through the Irrigation Association in Virginia. Before getting into the water industry, Shawn worked as a technical writer for the Naval Research Center in Monterey.