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California Regulators Propose Extending Water Conservation

John Weiss / Flickr

John Weiss / Flickr

California will likely not achieve a statewide 25 percent water conservation rate under a new draft proposal that extends the rules.

California regulators say they’ve made modest adjustments to the state’s water conservation rates going forward. The draft proposal released Friday allows cities to account for differences in climate, population growth, and past investments in new water supplies.

But those new water supplies would not include groundwater or any project built before 2013. 

“A lot of water suppliers statewide rely on groundwater," says Eric Oppenheimer, Chief Deputy Director with the State Water Resources Control Board. "It’s very difficult to provide credits for one user that could affect another user within the same basin or could have an environmental impact. At this point, where we are now, it just wasn’t workable.”

Several water agencies are upset that the proposal does not include past investments in technologies that save water or provide new supplies. 

“While the staff has offered up some cosmetic adjustments, the draft regulation does not go far enough to address the very legitimate concerns the water community has been raising," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, in a statement."We believe the state’s drought response should allow local communities to utilize the water supply tools they have created to buffer the effects of droughts such as this one," said Quinn.

Under the proposal, no city or water district's conservation rate would drop more than 8 percent. 

“Assuming that some of the 400 plus water agencies either adopt or apply for some of the credits offered in this latest draft of the regulation, in aggregate we could see a few percentage point drop in totals from that 25 percent,”says Oppenheimer.

The State Water Resources Control Board could still make changes to the proposal. It's scheduled to vote on the proposal at its February meeting. 

California Governor Jerry Brown has called for extending water cutbacks through October if the drought continues. 

"We're just proposing to extend the regulations now because they expire next month, and we're not going to know until April what this rainy season will truly bring us," says Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. "That will be the appropriate time to make more significant adjustments or step back from the emergency nature of this work."

California regulators say the conservation rules will save the state more than a million acre feet of water by October 2016. That's enough water for two million California families for a year. It's almost enough to fill Folsom Lake reservoir.

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