With new drought management regulations in place effective June 1, 2016 (see article on the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) revised emergency conservation regulation in the May-June issue of On Tap), California Water Association (CWA) member companies have been busy this summer informing their customers on the changes to the SWRCB’s revised emergency regulation on drought management, which carries the state through January 2017.
In response to the SWRCB resolution, and a companion resolution from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) (see article: CWA Comments on SWRCB’s Intended Use Plans), virtually all of the investor-owned water utilities (IOUs) affected by the SWRCB’s resolution confirmed for their customers that their supplies were sufficient for the next three years. The IOUs also submitted self-certifications at zero percent (except Santa Clara County as noted below); however, they continue to press customers to minimize their water use and maintain their successful conservation practices.
Suburban Water Systems (Suburban) notified its customers in Whitter, La Mirada and San Jose Hills (all in southeastern Los Angeles County) via bill inserts and postcard mailings that the utility was moving from Stage 2 to Stage 1 of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan effective July 18, 2016. Moving to Stage 1 entailed several changes to its drought management program, most significantly, the suspension of mandated water-reduction targets, including drought surcharges for excessive water use that had been in effect for nearly a year. Several mandatory water-use restrictions remain in place, including a limitation on outdoor irrigation to (generally) three days a week and irrigating ornamental landscapes between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Additionally, all of the SWRCB’s prohibitions on unauthorized, non-essential water uses remain in place.
The message in Suburban’s postcard mailing to customers noted, “Suburban Water Systems would like to thank all of our customers for your continued efforts to save water. We are proud to announce that our customers conserved 23 percent in comparison to 2013, which is 3.9 billion gallons saved from June 2015 to May 2016! Keep up the great work. EVERY DROP COUNTS!”
San Jose Water Company’s (SJWC) Director of Customer Service Robert Day sent a letter to customers on the updated water conservation targets, which included conservation rules and frequently asked questions. Day noted, “On a statewide basis, the governor’s emergency drought declaration remains in effect. Locally, the Santa Clara Valley Water District (District), the county’s wholesale water supply agency, recently reduced its water conservation target from 30 percent to 20 percent and increased the number of watering days from two to three days a week. The new target and watering schedule will be in effect from July 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017.” In response, SJWC amended its conservation plan to reflect the District’s new 20 percent target.
San Gabriel Valley Water Company notified its customers, the CPUC and the SWRCB that it will retain its current (amended) conservation target of 14 percent on a voluntary basis but without surcharges and penalties. As with all water utilities, non-essential and prohibitive water-use restrictions will remain in effect.
In a drought update, California American Water commended customers for doing a great job of responding to the drought, noting they saved more than 9 billion gallons of water from June 1, 2015, to May 31, 2016. The IOU outlined reduced mandatory drought restrictions for all districts on its website.
For many of its systems, Golden State Water Company (GSWC) implemented new conservation standards aligned with the SWRCB’s shift to locally developed conservation standards. As with all IOUs, the standards could be revised pending the SWRCB’s verification of self-certification data and developments in local water supply conditions and conservation. Given California remains in a drought emergency, GSWC continues to encourage customers to use water responsibly and keep the existing conservation momentum to ensure sufficient water supplies are available when needed. In addition, GSWC offers customers an online option to report water waste as well as a water-use efficiency section on its website.
Lastly, California Water Service (Cal Water) notified customers that “conservation targets will continue to be based on 2013 use, except for unique situations; however, the company will suspend surcharges for all customers, at least temporarily. In most communities, Cal Water asks customers to achieve a water-use reduction of at least 10 percent.” In a press release, Cal Water’s Director of Drought Management and Conservation Ken Jenkins cautioned, “Although most of our communities have adequate short-term water supplies, much of the state continues to experience severe drought. It is critical that our customers continue their excellent conservation efforts in order to ensure that we have enough water to meet long-term needs.”