California is planning on being ready for its next drought as a pair of bills signed by Governor Jerry Brown on May 31 are designed to establish state-wide water efficiency standards.
Senate Bill 606 by Senator Robert Hertzberg and Assembly Bill 1668 by Assembly member Laura Friedman establish guidelines for efficient water use and framework for new standards that must be in place by 2022.
The bills set guidelines for water agencies to have an indoor per-person average water use goal of 55 gallons per day until 2025, 52.5 gallons per day from 2025 to 2030, and 50 gallons per day by 2030.
The bills also create incentives for water suppliers to recycle water and require both urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets and prepare for drought.
“In preparation for the next drought and our changing environment, we must use our precious resources wisely. We have efficiency goals for energy and cars—and now we have them for water,” Brown said.
The average American uses 80 to 100 gallons a day according to the U.S. Geological Survey. According to the Sacramento Bee, Californians used an average of 90 gallons per day in 2017, down from 109 in 2013.
Californians can look to other parts of the world for inspiration.
When Brisbane, Australia, suffered through a prolonged drought from 1996-2010, its residents cut their use to 44 gallons a day. Earlier this year, Cape Town, South Africa announced a Day Zero when its water pipes would go dry due to a prolonged drought unless there were significant cuts in water use by its residents—all the way down to 13.2 gallons per day per person.
The Cape Town government established an organized initiative detailing everything from toilet use to personal hygiene and replacing plumbing fixtures. It also issued fines to residents caught violating water efficiency rules. The campaign was an overwhelming success as Cape Town has avoided a Day Zero for now.
In California, the Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board are going to conduct studies and recommend standards by October 2021. The groups are going to meet with local districts and stated differences in climate and water availability in certain parts of the state will factor into its findings and recommendations.
“This is another important step in the Legislature’s focused effort to reengineer water policy away from crisis management and toward a 21st century approach,” Hertzberg said.
“Governor Brown challenged every Californian to embrace water efficiency during the drought, and with his signature on AB 1668, we’ll have the state working collaboratively with local governments and urban water suppliers to put in place water efficiency standards that will help every community focus on sustainability,” added Friedman.
The National Ground Water Association recently interviewed Cape Town’s executive deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, about his city’s conservation efforts. Portions of the interview can be heard on NGWA’s website.