California Adopts First Permanent Statewide Water Conservation Framework

California Adopts First Permanent Statewide Water Conservation Framework

Water flows from a tap in San Anselmo, Calif., on July 6, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Summer Lane
Summer Lane


Updated: 7/9/2024


California has adopted a historic statewide water conservation plan, affecting hundreds of urban retail water suppliers—that serve 95 percent of Californians—to increase water savings by 2040.
The State Water Resources Control Board, a five-member agency made up of appointees by the governor, approved the new rules July 3.
Unlike temporary emergency water usage rules in the past, these new regulations are permanent.
The board said in a press release that their strategy in implementing the new measures is to address a 10 percent water supply shortfall they anticipate by 2040.
Starting in 2027, California urban water suppliers must calculate how much water it can allocate to users based on residential indoor and outdoor water use. How much commercial, institutional, and industrial landscapes can use will be based on irrigation meters.  
The regulations are expected to preserve water supplies amid what the board describes as hotter and drier conditions in California. 
The rules go into effect in January 2025, but water suppliers have until 2027 to get up to speed with compliance.
The amounts to suppliers will also take other factors like population, landscape area, and climate into consideration.
The so-called “water budgets” may allow variances for “unique uses,” such as raising livestock or supplementing ponds and lakes. This means some areas’ water budgets may be increased based on their average demand for water.
The goal of the adopted framework is to cut extra water usage by capping what suppliers can provide, which board officials said should lead to more water storage.
The board projects these new regulations will produce around 500,000 acre-feet of water savings annually by 2040, which is enough to supply 1.4 million households for one year.
According to the water board, California needed a better framework for water usage because “severe” swings between wet and dry weather cycles have made water supplies vulnerable.
“Today is an exciting and historic moment for California because we have now formalized water conservation as a way of life,” water board chair Joaquin Esquival said in a statement.
The new rules stem from the passage of Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606 in 2018. The bills provided requirements for suppliers, enforced by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board, and affect agricultural water suppliers, rural communities, and drought planning, according to the Association of California Water Agencies, a policy advocacy group. 
The state water board was not immediately available for comment on the details of the framework’s implementation.

Summer Lane is the bestselling author of 30 adventure books, including the hit "Collapse Series." She is a reporter and writer with years of experience in journalism and political analysis. Summer is a wife and mother and lives in the Central Valley of California.

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