Previous Article
Next Article

Your authoritative, multi-channel network for natural resources and environmental information since 1989 – by practioners for practitioners.

Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print This Article Back To Homepage

California State Water Resources Control Board Extends Emergency Conservation Regulations Despite Greatly Improved Surface Water Supply Conditions

On February 8, 2017, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) unanimously voted to extend for nine months, with minor modifications, existing emergency water conservation regulations. The SWRCB met stiff resistance primarily from water suppliers throughout California who urged that the regulations should be lifted due to extensive recent rainstorms, significant Sierra snowpack and rising water levels in many of the state’s surface reservoirs.

SWRCB staff recommended that the May 2016 Regulations, which were set to expire on February 28, 2017, be extended with minor modifications. Staff’s recommendation, however, met strong resistance from water suppliers throughout the state. Those opposed to extending the Regulations asserted that a drought emergency no longer exists due to recent dramatic rainfall, a healthy snowpack and rising water levels in most of California’s surface reservoirs. In fact, several water suppliers had already declared an end to drought emergency conditions within their service areas just days prior the SWRCB’s February 8, 2017 public hearing. Many members of the public asserted that emergency regulations should be reserved for “true emergencies” so as to maintain credibility with the public, and some even questioned the SWRCB’s authority to extend the Regulations.

Having existed, since 2014, under the Regulations imposed because of the state’s recently unprecedented drought conditions, many California water suppliers are understandably enthused by the wet start to the 2016/17 Water Year and the resulting improved surface water supplies. Though water suppliers in some regions believe that the statewide restrictions are no longer necessary, the SWRCB’s decision to extend the emergency Regulations reflects the fact that California is only half-way through the rainy season and that, as the recent drought has painfully reminded us, conditions can change abruptly.

(Derek Hoffman, Michael Duane Davis)