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Environmental & Natural Resources Legal Alert
April 2, 2015              

Authored by Kathryn Horning while an attorney at Allen Matkins, currently serving as Director - Corporate Counsel/Legal Operations Group at California American Water

Governor Brown Issues Executive Order Requiring Statewide Mandatory Water Restrictions

Responding to severely depleted water supplies and a record low snowpack at just 5% of historical averages, on April 1, 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an Executive Order, effective immediately, ordering mandatory actions to reduce water usage by 25% statewide from 2013 levels, increase enforcement to prevent water waste, and streamline government review of and response to drought-related measures. The Governor's order, and forthcoming regulations to implement its provisions, will significantly impact commercial, industrial and institutional property owners, real estate developers, agricultural interests, and water suppliers, as well as provide opportunities for those developing cutting-edge water efficiency technologies.

Executive Order B-29-15 requires state and local agencies to take measures to implement the following:

Mandatory Water Restrictions

  • Restrictions to achieve a statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage as compared to 2013. Water service areas with higher per capita water usage must achieve proportionally greater reductions than areas with lower per capita use.
  • A statewide initiative in partnership with local agencies to replace 50 million square feet of turf with drought tolerant landscaping.
  • Restrictions requiring commercial, industrial and institutional properties, such as campuses, golf courses and cemeteries, to immediately implement water efficiency measures to reduce potable water use consistent with statewide 25% reduction targets.
  • Prohibitions on outdoor irrigation with potable water at newly constructed homes and buildings, where irrigation is not delivered by drip or microspray systems, and bans on irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians.
  • Rate structures, including surcharges, fees and penalties, to maximize water conservation.

Increased Enforcement Against Water Waste

  • Frequent reporting of water diversion and use by water right holders, inspections for illegal diversions or wasteful or unreasonable use of water, and enforcement actions against illegal diverters or those engaging in wasteful and unreasonable use.
  • Ordinances increasing water efficiency standards for new and existing landscapes.
  • Agricultural drought management plans with quantification of water supplies and demands in 2013, 2014 and 2015 to be prepared by agricultural water suppliers.
  • Immediate implementation by local water agencies in high and medium priority groundwater basins of all requirements of the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring Program under Water Code section 10933.

New Technology

  • A Water Energy Technology program to accelerate use of innovative water management technologies, such as renewable energy-powered desalination, integrated on-site reuse systems, water-use monitoring software, irrigation system timing and precision technology, and on-farm precision technology.

Streamlined Government Response

  • Temporary assistance for residents who must relocate due to a lack of potable water.
  • Priority review and approval of infrastructure projects and programs that increase local water supplies.
  • Suspension of review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for certain of the actions required under this Order.
  • Immediate consideration of voluntary crop idling water transfers and water exchange proposals of one year or less that are initiated by local agencies.
  • Prioritization of new and amended safe drinking water permits that enhance water supply.
  • Expedited processing of applications for amendments to power plant certifications for the purpose of securing alternate water supplies for continued plant operation.
  • Consideration and, if necessary, implementation of emergency drought salinity barriers in the Delta estuary to conserve water for use later in the year.

The descriptions above highlight some of the important provisions of Executive Order B-29-15, and forthcoming regulations and other measures by responsible agencies to implement these provisions will undoubtedly provide more detail. If you have any questions or concerns about how these restrictions could affect your business, please contact us.

Read theĀ full text of the Order.