California water regulators suggest slight easing of conservation requirements

Bettina Boxall
December 21, 2015

As they look to next year, state regulators are suggesting a slight easing of the conservation requirements that slashed urban water use across California.

In a draft released Monday, the staff of the State Water Resources Control Board recommended a few changes to the 2014 drought order, which mandated a 25% cut. The effect of the modifications, which the board will vote on in February, would be to lower that number to 22%.

Although cities and towns have on average exceeded the required savings this year, a number of water districts complained that their individual targets failed to take into account regional climate or other factors.

The staff recommendations represent a nod to some of those objections, while rejecting others.

“We’re being cautious,” said Max Gomberg, the board’s climate and conservation manager. “We’re recognizing that there are concerns about equity that were raised, and we’re addressing them with these modest adjustments. But we’re maintaining a strong statewide conservation level.”

Under the proposed changes, regional climate would be considered, as well as local growth and the use of desalinated seawater and recycled water in drinking supplies. Together, the staff says the credits will trim statewide savings by 3 percentage points, lowering the conservation target to 22%.

The regions that would most benefit from the revisions are hot inland and desert areas; Orange County, which replenishes its groundwater supplies with recycled water; and much of San Diego County, which is starting operation of a seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad.

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