State Sens. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) have unveiled legislation that establishes permanent water efficiency standards and puts California on the path to maximizing its water supplies and minimizing waste.
The legislation, SB 606, sets water conservation goals for cities to meet by 2026. It also establishes a process for the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Water Resources to develop uniform indoor and outdoor water efficiency standards based on local climate zones and regional precipitation.
“We know water supplies will be severely strained in California in the 21st century as climate change reduces snowpack and creates chronic cycles of drought,” Hertzberg said. “The first step in managing a precious resource is to make the most of it, and that’s what we’re doing by aggressively pursuing efficiency standards.”
California’s energy efficiency movement began after an oil and energy crisis in the 1970s. The policies established then continue to save ratepayers money by reducing per capita energy use, Hertzberg said.
However, California has no plan or long-term goal for efficiency with water usage. According to the quadrennial National Climate Assessment, which is being finalized this year, climate change will likely reduce California’s snowpack and produce long-lasting droughts in the state by the end of this century.
“Energy efficiency is hardwired into our daily lives,” Skinner said. “It’s time for California to make water efficiency as easy and effortless as we have made energy efficiency.”
In 2009, the California Legislature established a goal of reducing urban water use by 20 percent by 2020. Shortly thereafter, California began suffering through the worst drought since statehood. In 2015 alone, the drought cost the state more than $2.7 billion in economic activity, Hertzberg added
The governor ordered emergency measures beyond the 2020 goal, mandating an immediate 25 percent statewide reduction in water use. In response, the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Water Resources developed rules, targets and enforcement mechanisms to achieve the cuts evenly throughout the state.
The rules, though, frustrated local governments and water agencies, which criticized the lack of flexibility on how cuts were achieved and the lack of credit given to those agencies that had already made efficiency a priority. Currently, there is no consistent statewide urban water efficiency standard, Hertzberg added. The goal of SB 606 is improve water efficiency.
For information, visit senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.