2018 Water Conservation Legislation

View of a home garden in the South Land Park area of Sacramento, California.

Making Conservation a Way of Life: A water-wise home garden in Sacramento featuring lavender and California poppies. DWR/2019

California has long been at the forefront of water conservation, becoming the first state to adopt urban water use efficiency targets with the of the Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SB X7-7, Steinberg, 2009). This Act mandated the State achieve a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by 2020. However, as the effects of climate change become more apparent – longer droughts, destructive wildfires, more intense flooding, and shrinking snowpack – it became clear that California needed to do more to make our water go as far as possible. 

Water Conservation Legislation

In 2018, new landmark water conservation legislation was signed into law. Together, AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg), lay out a new long-term water conservation framework for California. This new framework is far-reaching for both the urban and agricultural sectors of California and represents a major shift in focus. Programs and initiatives are organized around four primary goals:

(1) Use water more wisely

(2) Eliminate water waste

(3) Strengthen local drought resilience, and

(4) Improve agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning

Collectively, this legislation provides a road map for all Californians to work together to ensure that we will have enough water now and in the years ahead. It should be noted that the 2018 legislation applies to the actions of DWR, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), and water suppliers. It does not set any standards or rules for individual use.

Implementation

DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board developed a “Primer” or handbook that summarizes the 2018 Water Conservation Legislation. Entitled Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life – Primer of 2018 Legislation on Water Conservation and Drought Planning, Senate Bill 606 (Hertzberg) and Assembly Bill 1668 (Friedman)the Primer outlines the key authorities, requirements, timeline, roles, and responsibilities of State agencies, water suppliers, and other entities during implementation of actions described in the 2018 legislation.

To fully plan, develop and implement the new framework, DWR and the State Water Board will work closely together in collaboration with stakeholders to develop new standards for:

  • Indoor residential water use

  • Outdoor residential water use

  • Commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) water use for landscape irrigation with dedicated meters

  • Water loss

Urban water suppliers will be required to stay within annual water budgets, based on these standards, for their service areas. In addition, water suppliers will need to report on implementation of new performance measures for CII water use. The legislation also made important changes to existing urban and agricultural water management planning, and enhanced drought preparedness and water shortage contingency planning for both urban water suppliers, and small water systems and rural communities.

DWR is responsible for numerous studies and investigations over the next three years, the development of standards, guidelines and methodologies, performance measures, web-based tools and calculators, data and data platforms, reports and recommendations to the Water Board for adoption of new regulations.

DWR and State Water Board will work closely with stakeholders and seek public input throughout implementation of these new bills. DWR has formed stakeholder workgroups on each of the key projects. Workgroup meetings are held periodically and are open to the public. Please email WUE@water.ca.gov to be added to our mailing list. The tabs to the right provide more information on these projects.

Contact Information

News and Updates

Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary for Natural Resources, addresses the County Drought Advisory Group in Sacramento, California on October 1, 2019.

The Department of Water Resources has released a draft report with recommendations and guidance to help small water suppliers and rural communities plan for the next drought, wildfire, or other natural disaster that may cause water shortages.

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