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State Water Board Issues Notice of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking for New Drought Water Conservation Regulations

Client Alert

On July 8, 2014 the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) issued a notice of proposed emergency rulemaking for regulations that would prohibit all individuals from engaging in certain water use practices and would require mandatory conservation-related actions of public water suppliers during the current drought emergency.

The State Water Board will consider the proposed emergency rulemaking at its July 15 meeting, and written comments are due by noon on July 14.  If adopted and subsequently approved by the Office of Administrative Law, the regulations would go into effect on or about August 1.


Water Code section 1058.5 grants the State Water Board the authority to adopt emergency regulations in certain drought years.  On January 17, Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency, and on April 25 the Governor signed an Executive Order calling on the State to redouble state drought actions.

Proposed Regulations

The first regulation applies to all individuals, and prohibits each of the following actions, except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency:

  • Watering of outdoor landscapes that causes runoff to adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
  • Using a hose to wash an automobile, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or devise that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;
  • Directly applying water to any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt; and
  • Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated.

A violation is punishable by a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500) for each day in which the violation occurs.

The second regulation applies to public water suppliers, with different requirements for “urban water suppliers"[1] compared to other water suppliers that do not qualify as urban water suppliers (i.e., any other distributor of public water supply).  

Urban water suppliers are required to implement all requirements and actions of the stage of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans that impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation.  Each urban water supplier that does not have this type of plan or has an insufficient plan, must limit, within thirty days, outdoor irrigation by the persons it serves to no more than two days per week or shall implement another mandatory conservation measure intended to achieve the same reduction in water consumption.  Each urban water supplier must submit monthly monitoring report forms to the State Water Board including information on the amount of water produced and estimates of water consumption per person.

Other public water suppliers that do not qualify as “urban water suppliers,” are required, within thirty days, to limit outdoor irrigation by the persons it serves to no more than two days per week or to implement another mandatory conservation measure to achieve equivalent reductions.

The proposed regulations do not specify penalties for a public water supplier’s failure to comply with these new regulations.  

Additional Information

The Notice of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking and the Proposed Emergency Regulations are available at the following State Water Board website:

For further information, please contact attorneys June Ailin or Miles Hogan from Aleshire & Wynder's Water Practice Group at (949) 223‑1170.

Disclaimer:  Aleshire & Wynder, LLP legal alerts are not intended as legal advice.  Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein.  Please seek legal advice before acting or relying upon any information in this communication.

[1]   The Water Code defines an “urban water supplier” in part as publicly and privately owned municipal water suppliers providing water either directly or indirectly to more than 3,000 customers or supplying more than 3,000 acre-feet of water annually.  See Cal. Wat. Code, § 10617.