B.J. Atkins | New California Water Laws Are Fake News

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Regional news agencies reported recently water customers could be fined for taking a shower and doing laundry on the same day. 


There is no law against showering and doing laundry on the same day. There are no specific statewide laws that require individual households to meet a specific target or standard. 

Rather, urban water use objectives will be set for an entire service area.

On May 31, 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed long-term water-use efficiency bills, Assembly Bill 1668 (Friedman, D-Glendale) and Senate Bill 606 (Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys) into law. These water use efficiency laws are now beginning to be implemented and provide an interrelated framework intended to strengthen California’s water resiliency in the face of future droughts. They establish standards and guidelines for efficient water use and implement a policy of “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.”

A major aspect of these bills is the creation of water-use objectives for water agencies (not individual households or businesses). 

Local water agencies will be responsible for calculating their water-use objectives and determining whether their systemwide, aggregate water use can meet these objectives. 

SCV Water will have flexibility in how best to help customers use water more efficiently (i.e. conservation rebates, education, etc.). 

There is also a 15% credit or incentive for use of recycled (purified) water from an existing facility; 10% for the many recycled water projects planned by SCV Water.

After November 2027, the state could issue fines to local water agencies IF they do not meet their water-use objectives. These fines would be levied on agencies, not individuals. Notices of violation will come first, with time given to come into compliance. 

Fines of $1,000 per day are authorized if a water agency fails to meet water use objectives. If failure to meet the objectives happens during emergency drought conditions (declared by the governor), a water agency may pay fines up to $10,000 per day.

The state is requiring water agencies to target 55 gallons per capita (person) daily or GPCD for residential indoor water use. This is an objective that requires use of many tools, including continuing education on water conservation. 

As agency objectives they were never intended as enforceable against individuals. GPCD in the Santa Clarita Valley varies from a low of about 46 GPCD, to a high of about 175 GPCD depending on the season and how hot it is outside.

Based on water industry estimates, many households already meet this standard. 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has an online water calculator (www.home-water-works.org/calculator) designed to help customers estimate how much water is used in their household. If you have water-efficient appliances there is a good chance you are already using 55 GPCD (indoors).  

These water efficiency standards are to be determined based on several factors, including the 55 GPCD residential indoor target, but also residential outdoor water use, commercial outdoor water use, and a water loss target.

The state is to develop efficiency standards for outdoor water use by October 2021. These outdoor standards will incorporate the latest information available and include provisions for swimming pools, spas, and other water features. 

This rulemaking is expected to include a robust process for affected participants or stakeholders. SCV Water will be paying close attention, asking for help from outdoor landscape experts if need be.

Commercial water users will also be required to use water more efficiently. By June 30, 2022, the state will adopt water use efficiency performance measures for various commercial, industrial and institutional or CII users (schools, parks, etc.). Better water use efficiency among CII users will be through education on best management practices and conducting water use audits, among other things (so stay tuned).

SCV Water works hard to avoid leaks. As with most things, leaks come with age. This is called water loss. SCV Water has a program to identify and repair water loss when and where it occurs. 

Newer technology even helps to find and prevent unseen or potential leaks. The state will also be setting long-term standards for water loss by June 30, 2022, including performance standards for water agencies like SCV Water.

SCV Water customers are leading the way in water conservation efforts. Last year more than 10,000 customers engaged in residential water conservation rebate programs and educational activities. SCV Water hosted 24 gardening workshops and educated more than 560 residents on how to maintain and irrigate their landscapes efficiently. 

Customers have converted more than 1,575 irrigation stations to smart controllers (which automatically adjust watering based on local weather). Nearly 310 residential home water efficiency “check-ups” occurred, more than 1,400 ultra-high efficiency toilet (replacements) installed and more than 200,000 square feet of lawn was replaced with water-efficient (drought-tolerant) landscapes.

Way to go Santa Clarita! The 55 GPCD target for residential indoor water use has been met in the past. With a little more effort, we can do even better. 

We need to because the residential indoor water use target will drop to 52.5 GPCD by 2025 and 50 GPCD by 2030. Remember, we live in a desert!

B.J. Atkins is a long-time Newhall resident, serves as a director on the SCV Water board and is co-owner of a local environmental consulting company, Environmental HELP Inc. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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