Governor Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation on Thursday calling for better preparation for droughts and climate change by establishing statewide water efficiency standards. The bills have been anticipated for some time as the state strengthens its water resiliency in the face of future droughts and climate change.
In signing SB 606 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-18th District-Van Nuys) and AB 1668 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-43rd District-Glendale) Gov. Brown said, “In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely. We have efficiency goals for energy and cars – and now we have them for water.” SB 606 and AB 1668 establish guidelines for efficient water use and a framework for the implementation and oversight of the new standards, which must be in place by 2022. Agencies which fail to meet their goals can be fined beginning in 2027.
“This is another important step in the Legislature’s focused effort to re-engineer water policy away from crisis management and toward a 21st century approach,” said Senator Hertzberg. “I want to thank the Governor and his staff for their creative vision, and my colleagues in both houses for their hard work to bring this across the finish line.”
The two bills provisions include:
- Establishing an indoor, per person water use goal of 55 gallons per day until 2025, 52.5 gallons from 2025 to 2030 and 50 gallons beginning in 2030.
- Requiring both urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets and prepare for drought.
- Creating incentives for water suppliers to recycle water.
“Governor Brown challenged every Californian to embrace water efficiency during the drought, and with his signature on AB 1668, we’ll have the state working collaboratively with local governments and urban water suppliers to put in place water efficiency standards that will help every community focus on sustainability,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “It’s a balanced approach that puts efficiency first and gives water agencies the flexibility to embrace innovation and tailor their policies to meet the unique needs of their community.”
The mandated water targets will vary by city and county, a provision necessary to account for the state’s varied topography and precipitation totals in the northern versus southern portions of the state. Many water agencies had complaining during California’s most recent five-year drought that Gov. Brown’s water restrictions were inflexible in light of population growth and available local water supplies. The new targets will require the approval of the State Water Resources Control Board by no later than the 2022 deadline.
Both bills have attracted diverse groups of supporters and detractors. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society joined with some of the state’s largest water agencies in support of the new legislation. NRDC’s water conservation director Tracy Quinn said of the bills, “They are definitely a step in the right direction. The framework strikes the right balance between local control and necessary state oversight.”
But other water agencies, including Kern County Water Agency, San Diego County Water Authority, the Zone 7 Water Agency in Livermore and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), opposed the new legislation. “This was never about whether we should be pursuing conservation. It was about how,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the ACWA. “Every local water agency supports conservation and has a responsibility to make sure its water users use water efficiently,”
The state’s five-year drought originally led to temporary emergency actions and investments and the advancement of the California Water Action Plan, the Administration’s five-year blueprint for more reliable, resilient water systems to prepare for climate change and population growth. Governor Brown’s signature on SB 606 and AB 1668 build’s ongoing efforts to make water conservation a way of life in California.
Further information on the newly signed legislation and the full text of the bills can be found at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.