New Water Use Efficiency Laws Mark Progress in Making Water Conservation a Way of Life in California

  • by Timothy Quinn
  • Jun 7, 2018
  • Voices on Water

Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two water-use efficiency bills. From ACWA’s perspective, this allows us to check the box next to “conservation as a way of life in California” and take another key step forward in implementing the governor’s California Water Action Plan.

This also marks the end of a major debate on long-term water efficiency and conservation. This debate was never about whether we should conserve, but how we should conserve. ACWA member agencies have been on the forefront of water-use efficiency efforts for decades. We advocated for key amendments to these bills and, although not all of them were accepted, the final legislation is much improved compared to the initial drafts. This includes more recognition of local autonomy and authority, and incentives for recycled water use.

Now that SB 606 and AB 1668 have been signed into law, ACWA is working closely with member agencies to ensure they can assess how the new requirements will affect them, including the timeline for implementation. One key issue that is widely misunderstood needs to be clarified. The new requirements do not restrict daily water use by individual customers, as has been erroneously reported by some.  Instead it requires water agencies to develop agency-wide water budgets, with local agencies determining how best to keep aggregate water use in their communities below agency-wide efficient water use targets.

This is a far cry from a few years ago when the state mandated across-the-board, one-size-fits-all water reductions throughout the state on a percentage basis, ignoring regional differences in supply, climate and geography. What we have now is a far more sophisticated system that recognizes differences between agencies and provides them with some leeway to meet goals through target setting. As an added benefit, the legislation also establishes incentives for recycled water use, which is a key element of an “all of the above” strategy for our sustainable water future.

California continues to rise to our water management challenges, and local water agencies will continue to lead the way. This new law and the process to implement it deserves the full cooperation of the water community as we continue making water conservation a way of life in California.

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