California’s Five-Year Drought Is Over But Its Residents Have New Water Conservation Laws

In recent years, California has been given a pretty rough go of it from Mother Nature. Wildfires and low rainfall have plagued the state. The good news is that the rainfall picked up last year, ending a 5-year long drought. In an effort to minimize the effects of future periods of drought, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed off on two new state laws that establish some new water conservation rules.

The two laws are SB 606 and AB 1668, and each requires cities and their respective water districts, as well as agricultural water districts, to produce annual water usage budgets and then strictly adhere to them. That concept seems reasonable, but it’s in the fines the entities will be hit with if they don’t meet the budgets where things get interesting…and expensive!

In fact, if a city or water district does not meet their established water budget, they’ll be required to pay a fine of $1,000 each day they fail to meet that budget. And that’s during a normal timeframe with typical rainfall. During times of declared drought emergencies, the fines kick up to a whopping $10,000 per day!

Cities and water districts have some time to put their respective game plans together. Usage targets will need to be submitted and approved by the State Water Resources Control Board by 2022 and the fines for not meeting the targets will begin in 2027.

In order to meet the demands, water providers will likely need to get creative by doing things like offering their customers rebates for replacing plants around their homes with drought-tolerant options.

The laws racked up a good number of supporters, including many businesses throughout the state which support the idea because it allows the local entities some flexibility in setting goals as the respective populations of those areas grow. Meanwhile, the state can continue to develop new products and solutions that each district and city can use to reduce water usage.

In terms of targets, the goal is for the entire state to achieve an average 55 gallons per person, per day of usage. Last year, California used an average of 90 gallons per day, per person. Any way you look at it, the cities and water districts will have to get creative to achieve those goals.