New conservation regulations pose challenges for Rowland Water District and customers

2018, new laws took effect that aim to make water conservation a California way of life. Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606 establish long-term conservation goals for water agencies like Rowland Water District to improve reliability during prolonged droughts.

The new laws are built on these pillars: use water more wisely, eliminate water waste, strengthen local drought resistance, and improve agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning.

Rowland and other districts face a variety of new guidelines, tasks and responsibilities as part of the legislation, including reporting requirements and penalties for violations. Meeting these requirements will increase administrative costs for Rowland Water District.

The State Water Resources Control Board will adopt standards by June 2022 after input from water suppliers and the public.

The regulations establish a daily indoor water use standard of 55 gallons for each resident of a household, declining to 50 gallons by 2030. The mandates are not imposed on individual households or businesses but are spread across water districts’ entire ratepayer base and factored in to overall conservation goals.

Indoor water use will be just one part of a utility’s conservation calculations. AB 1668 and SB 606 also require State regulators to set limits on how much water can be used outdoors for watering lawns, filling swimming pools and more. Outdoor water use can account for as much as 75 percent of a home’s overall water consumption. Rowland and other districts are working with the State to establish these outdoor standards, which will vary greatly by area depending on climate.

The new rules also call for replacing aging pipes and water mains to prevent leaks and emergency breaks that waste millions of gallons of water, as well as updating drought plans.

Beginning in November 2023, Rowland and other water districts will calculate their goals based on the water needed locally for efficient indoor residential water use, outdoor residential water use, commercial, industrial and institutional irrigation with dedicated meters, and reasonable amounts of system water loss, along with any variances and credit for recycled water.

Districts that don’t reach their goals by 2025 are subject to State fines. Rowland Water District has always been committed to conserving water and responsibly managing our water supply, and we will continue to ask our customers to keep doing their part and use water wisely.

Proposed water tax pending

Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget includes a provision to establish a special fund to upgrade water systems in disadvantaged communities.

The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund is similar to last year’s Senate Bill 623, which was abandoned as part of a compromise on the state budget. That legislation was followed by a similar proposal by then-Governor Jerry Brown, who abandoned the idea for lack of support in the Legislature.

Though details of Newsom’s proposed tax have not been released, it is expected to mirror SB 623, which called for an additional 95 cents per month for retail water customers and up to $10 per month for businesses.

Most of the small water systems and private well users that would benefit are in the Central Valley, where water quality is degraded by agricultural pesticides, arsenic and other contaminants. They represent a small percentage of the state.

The idea of a tax on water has been widely opposed by water agencies, businesses, associations and cities in California.

The Association of California Water Agencies and California Municipal Utilities Association are sponsoring alternative legislation to create a Safe Drinking Water Trust, which would be financed with General Fund dollars during a state budget surplus year. The net income from the Trust would create a durable funding source to help water systems in disadvantaged communities provide access to safe drinking water.

Rowland Water District will continue to monitor progress on this proposal and keep our customers informed.

Click here for an Editorial about this Water Tax

California Water Legislation Updates