Whether the state should extend the current emergency conservation regulation or let it expire was the focus of a workshop before the State Water Resources Control Board on Jan. 18.
Citing dramatically improved conditions, water agency representatives from throughout the state voiced support for letting the regulation expire in February. They emphasized, however, that urban water suppliers remain committed to helping their customers shift to permanent changes to improve water use efficiency on an ongoing basis.
Water suppliers also reiterated their support for the “stress-test” approach outlined in the current regulation, and many said they would continue monthly water use reporting and data collection if requested by the State Water Board. They encouraged the board to thank the public and shift the focus to the long term.
Their comments followed a presentation in which State Water Board staff recommended that the board extend the current regulation for another 270 days and revisit it in May when the rainy season is largely over and the water supply picture is clear. The staff also recommended that water suppliers update their stress tests to reflect changing conditions.
ACWA and numerous water suppliers said the emergency regulation had served to focus public attention on the drought, but has outlived its purpose. Much progress has been, they noted, and residents have changed how they view and use water. Continuing the emergency regulation could create credibility issues and confuse the public, they said.
“It’s clear that water agencies and Californians have stepped up in a big way in response to the emergency regulation,” ACWA Director of State Regulatory Relations Dave Bolland told State Water Board members. “Continuing to message that we are in a crisis or emergency is problematic for a lot of agencies…. It’s time to move on to the long-term, sustainable practices agencies are now focused on.”
Bolland and others said it would be appropriate for water suppliers to continue submitting monthly reports, but noted that could be done under a different mechanism than the emergency regulation. They also noted that the state will soon consider regulations requiring just that under the long-term conservation framework state agencies are finalizing as directed by Gov. Jerry Brown in his May 2015 executive order.
The State Water Board did not take formal action on the staff recommendation. Board staff indicated proposed regulatory language would likely be released the following week, with action likely at the Feb. 7 meeting.
Several Board members indicated they were interested in continuing the data collection and monthly reporting that has taken place under the emergency regulation.
Prior to the workshop, the State Water Board heard an update on the Save Our Water program’s successful 2016 efforts presented by ACWA Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs and Member Services Jennifer Persike and Department of Water Resources Public Affairs Director Ed Wilson. The program is focusing in 2017 on evergreen messaging and promoting a California lifestyle shift. Board members made several positive comments about the program and its results.
Submitted by Lisa Lien-Mager on Wed, 01/18/2017