New Report Shows Continued Water Conservation Is Key

  • by Department of Water Resources
  • Nov 28, 2022
  • Water News

SACRAMENTO – As directed by 2018 legislation, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today submitted a first report to the State Water Resources Control Board summarizing how urban water districts assess the adequacy of their supplies over the next seven months.  Broadly, the assessments show the importance of conservation by individual Californians to help suppliers meet demands through June 30, 2023.

In this year’s assessments, urban water suppliers indicate that they will rely on either continued conservation or more aggressive actions to meet demand through June 30, 2023, if dry conditions persist. They report that they can ensure adequate water supplies through water-saving strategies, such as requiring customers to limit outdoor water and providing leak detection and repair services.

Since 2022 is the first year that urban water suppliers are required to submit an Annual Water Shortage Assessment, this year will serve as a baseline to evaluate if urban water suppliers are accurately assessing their annual water supply and demand. These annual assessments submitted by local agencies are intended to help state and local water suppliers better prepare for current and future droughts.

“One of the lessons learned from the last drought was the importance of early planning and State action to support our water suppliers in preparing for a hotter and drier climate,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Despite ongoing severe drought conditions and a possible fourth dry year ahead, DWR and suppliers are better prepared to continue to supply reliable drinking water to millions of Californians. Actions taken by individual Californians to save water indoors and outdoors make a big collective difference.”

With less water available as California shifts to a hotter, drier future, urban water suppliers will be submitting water supply and demand assessments annually as required by the 2018 Making Water Conservation a Way of Life legislation to improve long-term water conservation. The assessments are intended to ensure proper planning at the local level to meet demands and mitigate shortages through water conservation and other actions. The assessments also indicate what level of State assistance may be needed during continued drought.

The DWR report summarizes water supply assessments conducted by 414 of the 435 local urban water suppliers. Twenty-one agencies have not submitted the required assessments. Those required to submit include water suppliers that serve more than 3,000 connections or that supply more than 3,000 acre-feet of potable water annually for municipal purposes. The summary report does not include small water suppliers, which historically have faced more significant water supply challenges during drought conditions. The State continues to work with small suppliers through direct assistance, grants, and technical support programs.

Of the 414 submitted reports by urban water suppliers:

  • 338 urban water suppliers do not expect a shortage during the upcoming year with continued conservation efforts, including a voluntary 15 percent water-use reduction and continued activation of local Level 2 Water Shortage Contingency Plan measures.
  • 73 urban water suppliers anticipate they can fully address any shortage through increased conservation actions or increased supplies noted in their water shortage contingency plans, including stronger water-use reduction mandates.
  • 3 urban water suppliers noted that they may still experience a shortage after implementing water conservation actions or increased supplies included in their current plans. DWR continues to work with these suppliers to include additional actions to adequately address expected shortages.

To help prepare for drought and water shortage events, urban water suppliers are responsible for developing a water shortage contingency plan. These plans provide a description of the procedures they will employ each year to conduct their annual assessment, including a written decision-making process, as well as the key data inputs and the assessment methodology used to evaluate the near-term water supply reliability. Many suppliers are already implementing Level 2 response actions per Executive Order N-7-22 issued by Governor Newsom earlier this year.

It will be critically important for urban water suppliers to follow their plans and report their water supply situation accurately. This allows state water officials to work with local agencies to find additional supplies and head off potential shortages. The City of Coalinga, for example, submitted a water supply assessment in July that anticipated no water shortages. A few months later, the City announced that it would be out of water by December, largely because it did not implement the actions identified in its Water Shortage Contingency Plan. DWR was able to provide $1.2 million to the City of Coalinga to fund the purchase of supplemental water to maintain a reliable supply through the winter months. The City has been asked to submit a revised water supply assessment.

To help water suppliers plan more effectively, DWR offered technical assistance and provided feedback on their water shortage contingency plans. The feedback included proposing more aggressive response actions appropriate to the projected shortage levels and amending the supplier’s water shortage contingency plan, if deemed necessary. Some of the water suppliers realized more water savings with additional conservation actions and resubmitted the plan with no shortage expected.

DWR is coordinating with the remaining 21 suppliers who have yet to submit their plans and is currently providing additional targeted help and assistance. DWR reminds delinquent suppliers of the importance of proactively assessing supplies and demands in order to be prepared in case of future shortage events. The full list of delinquent suppliers is available here.

“Thank you to all Californians for stepping up conservation efforts to help reduce water use statewide and to urban water suppliers who are serious about planning for their communities,” Nemeth said. “Coming together like this to conserve will make a big impact for our water future.”

Small water suppliers are receiving support from DWR as it implements Senate Bill 552 (SB 552), which imposes new drought planning requirements on small water suppliers with fewer than 3,000 customers. DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board are hosting a series of informational workshops to explain the new requirements and help small water suppliers develop a water shortage contingency plan and solicit feedback for future resources. For more information about SB 552, visit DWR’s SB552 webpage.

This month, DWR will announce funding awards totaling $86 million for emergency and long-term projects through the Small Community Drought Relief program and the Integrated Regional Water Management program. The selected projects will support strategies to improve water quality, increase water supply, and upgrade aging infrastructure.

For larger communities still in need of assistance, DWR is currently accepting applications for the Urban Community Drought Relief program to support projects that build long-term climate resilience and improve water conservation.

As California experiences a climate transformation bringing hotter and drier conditions, each individual act of conservation makes a difference. More information and water-saving tips are available at saveourwater.com. For information about other DWR and State of California drought response efforts and funding programs, visit: drought.ca.gov.

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