Water Use Efficiency

In 2018, the California Legislature enacted two key policy bills — Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668 — to implement a new framework for long-term water conservation and drought planning for water suppliers. The two bills provide new and expanded authorities and requirements that affect water conservation and drought planning for water supplies, agricultural water suppliers, and small water suppliers and rural communities.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and other state agencies are currently implementing the legislation and developing data, information, guidelines and other technical assistance to help realize the bill’s intended outcomes. ACWA continues to engage on this issue through the Water Use Efficiency Work Group. Members interested in participating can contact ACWA Senior Regulatory Advocate Chelsea Haines.

More information on requirements, timelines and resources is available below.


Date Updates
6/19/2020 Public comments on small water suppliers and rural communities draft report and risk scoring tools due to DWR. 
5/28/2020 DWR Webinar on draft report – “Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities at Risk of Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability and Recommendations and Guidance to Address the Planning Needs of these Communities”
5/27/2020 DWR Webinar on drought and water shortage risk scoring tool for small water systems and rural communities
5/26/2020 Written comments on water loss regulation due by noon.

Urban Water Use Objective

The urban water use objective is an estimate of aggregate efficient water use from the previous year based on adopted water use efficiency service area characteristics for that year. It is the sum of the aggregate estimate of:

  1. Efficient indoor residential water use
  2. Outdoor residential water use
  3. Outdoor irrigation of landscape areas with dedicated irrigation meters or equivalent technology in connection with Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional (CII) water use
  4. Water losses
  5. Approved variances
  6. Bonus

All new requirements for the urban water use objectives are effective after June 2022 when the State Water Board adopts urban water use efficiency standards, performance measures, and variances. Urban water suppliers shall achieve the urban water use objective by Jan 1, 2027. An urban supplier that does not meet its objective may be required by the State Water Board to enact policies and projects that result in additional water savings.

Urban Water Use Standards

Indoor Standard: DWR is responsible for conducting studies and investigations and may develop recommendations to the Legislature on standards for indoor residential use. Effective standards include the following:

  • 55 gallon per capita per day (GPCD) until Jan. 1, 2025
  • The greater of 52.5 GPCD or a standard recommend by DWR and the SWRCB for the 2025 standard from Jan. 1, 2025 – Dec. 31, 2029
  • The greater of 50 GPCD or a standard recommended by DWR and the SWRCB for the 2030 standard after Jan. 1, 2030.

Key dates:

  • Jan. 1, 2021 – DWR recommendation to Legislature
  • Jan. 1, 2025- Legislature adopts standard
  • Jan. 1, 2026 – Legislature joint policy hearing
Outdoor Standard: DWR will recommend the following standards for the State Water Board to consider to adopt for:

  • Residential irrigable lands, including provisions for swimming pools, spas, and ornamental water features that are artificially supplied with water, and incorporating principles of the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO).
  • CII outdoor irrigation of landscape areas with dedicated meters or other means of measurement, and shall incorporate principles of the MWELO.

Key dates:

  • Oct. 1, 2021 – DWR recommendation to SWRCB
  • May 20, 2022 – State Water Board for public review
  • June 30, 2022 – State Water Board adopts standards
Variance: DWR will develop recommendations for unique uses that can have a material effect on an urban retail water supplier’s urban water reuse objective and the corresponding thresholds of significance. Appropriate variances may include: significant use of evaporative coolers, livestock and horses, seasonal populations, dust control, supplement ponds and lakes to sustain wildlife, fire protection, agricultural use.

Key dates:

  • Oct. 1, 2021 – DWR recommendation to State Water Board
  • May 20, 2021 – State Water board for public review
  • June 30, 2022 – State Water Board adopts standards
Bonus: A bonus incentive is to adjust the supplier’s urban water use objective by the volume of potable reuse water delivered to residential customers and landscape areas with dedicated irrigation meters in connection with CII water use. The bonus shall be limited in accordance with:

  1. Not to exceed 15% of the URWS’s water ruse objective for potable reuse produced at an existing facility
  2. Not exceed 10% of the URW’s objective for any potable reuse water produced a facility that is not an existing facility.

Reporting Requirements

Below is a timeline of the requirements fur urban water suppliers. More detailed descriptions can be found below.

* An urban water supplier that relies on imported water from the SWP or Bureau of Reclamation shall submits its annual water supply and demand assessment by June 1 or within 14 days of receiving its final allocations, whichever is later.

  • Annual Water Use Report: Each urban retail water supplier (URWS) submits an annual report to DWR on the previous year’s urban water use. For the preparation of the annual water use report, the legislation requires the calculated urban water use report for the previous year, active urban water use, documentation of implementation of performance measures for CII water use, description of progress made toward meeting an urban water use objective, and relevant supporting data.
  • Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP): URWSs must submit to DWR a supplement to its 2020 UWMP that includes a narrative describing water demand management measures that the supplier plans to implement to achieve its urban water use objective by  Jan. 1, 2027. The UWMP must be submitted by July in years ending in 1 and 6, incorporating updated and new information from the 5 years preceding the plan to include:
    • Description of its water supply reliability conditions and its strategy for meeting future water supply reliability needs to provide a general understanding of its plan for overall urban water management.
    • If its water supply is subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), then the UWMP must include the current version of any Groundwater Sustainability Plans and actions taken by the supplier to achieve sustainable groundwater conditions.
  • Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP): Each urban wholesale and retail water supplier must prepare, adopt, and submit a Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP) as part of UWMP to describe the method, procedures, response actions, enforcement and communications during six levels of water supply shortage conditions. Content requirements include: analysis of water supply reliability, procedures used for conducting an annual water supply and demand assessment, six standard water storage levels of equivalent, shortage response actions, communication protocols and procedures, customer compliance, enforcement, appeal, and exemption procedures, legal authority, financial consequence, monitoring and reporting requirements and procedures, and reevaluation and improvement procedures.
  • Drought Risk Assessment (DRA): Each urban water supplier must conduct a DRA as part of its UWMP to assess water supply reliability (or vulnerability) for a period of drought lasting five consecutive water years starting the year following when the assessment is conducted, and considering both historical drought hydrology and reliability of each source of supply.
  • Annual Water Supply and Demand Report: The annual water supply and demand assessment is the basis for the urban water supplier’s annual water shortage assessment report to DWR. The report must include information on anticipated shortage, triggered shortage response actions, compliance and enforcement actions, and communication actions as described in the WSCP.

Agricultural Water Use

AB 1668 (Friedmen) provides new authorities to add requirements for improving agricultural water use efficiency and drought resiliency and response planning by adding the following components to the agricultural water management plan (AWMP):

  • A water budget-based approach to water management that is consistent with SGMA implementation;
  • Identification of water management objectives and implementation actions to meet those objectives;
  • Quantification of the efficiency of water use using DWR’s methods; and
  • The addition of a drought plan for periods of limited water supply.

Agricultural water suppliers must submit the following reporting requirements:

  • AWMPs to DWR by April 1 of each year ending in 1 and 6.
  • Annual farm-gate delivery data to DWR each year on April 1.

Small Systems & Rural Communities

AB 1668 directs DWR, in consultation with the State Water Board, to develop recommendations and guidance to propose to the Governor and Legislature for addressing drought planning needs of small systems and rural communities throughout the state. DWR recently released the draft public report “Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities at Risk of Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability and Recommendations and Guidance to Address the Planning Needs of these Communities” and the Drought and Water Shortage Risk Scoring Tool for small water suppliers and rural communities.

The public comment period on both the report and tool is open until June 19, 2020. Two Webinars have been scheduled to discuss the report recommendations, the Risk Scoring Tool, and the risk scores as follow:

  • May 27, 2020 Webinar – to review, clarify, discuss, and receive comments on the drought and water shortage risk scoring and tool.
  • May 28, 2020 Webinar – to discuss and receive comments on the Draft Report recommendations.

Comments can be submitted to DWR using the web form or via email to droughtrisk@water.ca.gov.

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