On February 8, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted unanimously to extend Governor Brown’s water conservation executive order set to expire on February 28, 2017. According to a SWRCB media release, the board “agreed to consider repeal of the regulation in May if the regulations have not been rescinded or modified by May 1, following a more thorough review of the state’s water supply conditions.”

This means water waste, such as hosing down sidewalks, washing cars without a shut-off nozzle and irrigating grass on public street medians, are still banned under the current regulations. Additionally, water suppliers must continue reporting monthly water production through October 2017 to the SWRCB as well as submitting “stress tests” proving they have enough water to make it through three years of drought.

Despite water agencies’ concerns about confusing the public by extending the regulation during historic rain and snowfall, a SWRCB staff report on the extension noted, “So far, the state has experienced significant snow and rainfall during the 2016/2017 water year, causing many of the state’s reservoirs to shift to flood-control operations; however, some reservoirs remain critically low and groundwater storage remains depleted in many areas due to the continued impact of prolonged drought. Precipitation cannot be counted on to continue, and snowpack levels, while above average for the current time of year, are subject to rapid reductions as seen in 2016 and before.” In short, the SWRCB concluded that because continuation of the supply assessment stress test meant that most water utilities would continue with the status quo, there was no practical impact with continuation of the emergency regulation.

On January 12, 2017, the California Water Association submitted a comment letter to the SWRCB on the proposed extension. CWA acknowledged the decision parameters the SWRCB faced, noting that while the drought may not be over, the drought emergency certainly was and that continuation of the emergency regulation would create a credibility problem with customers. CWA said it would be supportive of a Board decision to let the emergency regulation lapse.

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