On January 17, 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought. What exactly does that mean?
By declaring an official drought, the State of California officially recognizes that we are in an extended dry period and our water supplies are limited. The official drought declaration is important because it simplifies the process of water transfers and allows the state to hire additional firefighting personnel to battle wildfires that may result from the dry landscape.
The Governor called for Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent and to reduce outdoor irrigation by 1 day per week.
Since the original drought declaration, the Governor has issued the following additional executive orders:
Avoid using water to clean sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and other hardscapes.
Turn off fountains and other decorative water features unless recycled or grey water is available.
Limit vehicle washing at home by patronizing local carwashes that use recycled water.
Limit outdoor watering of lawns and landscaping to no more than two times a week.
In addition, the Governor signed AB2100 into law on July 21, 2014 which prohibits Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) from fining residents who let their lawns go brown as a result of conserving water. This law is in effect during all formal drought declarations by the Governor. Please note that EMWD is not the governing agency on this matter, and this law does not prevent cities or counties from issuing fines.
What water use regulations are we supposed to follow?
There are overlapping regulations from EMWD, the Governor, and the State Water Resources Control Board. The current restrictions that EMWD customers need to be aware of include:
EMWD's Water Use Efficiency Requirements are always in effect. They are as follows:
Hosing down driveways and other hard surfaces, is prohibited except for health or sanitary reasons.
Repair water leaks within 48 hours of occurrence.
Irrigate landscape only between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Unattended irrigation systems using potable water are prohibited unless they are limited to no more than fifteen (15) minutes watering per day, per station.
Irrigation systems operate efficiently and avoid over watering or watering of hardscape and the resulting runoff.
Excessive water flow or runoff is prohibited.
Decorative fountains must be equipped with a recycling system.
Allowing water to run while washing vehicles is prohibited.
Install new landscaping with low-water demand trees and plants. New turf shall only be installed for functional purposes.
Watering during rain is prohibited.
Customers who are identified as wasting water through runoff can be assessed fines by EMWD. Those fines begin at $25 for residential customers and $100 for commercial properties.
I keep hearing about regulations from the State Water Resources Control Board...how do those affect EMWD?
EMWD is compliant with the State Water Resources Control Board regulations because we have a Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP) that includes stages with mandatory restrictions. EMWD is currently in Stage 2 of that WSCP.
The State Water Resource Control Board’s call for two days-per week outdoor irrigation is only for agencies that do not have Water Shortage Contingency Plans. However, EMWD is supporting this call to action from the Governor and State Water Resources Control Board and ask that residents voluntarily reduce their outdoor irrigation schedule to two days per week. Residents who do this will most likely remain within their water budgets.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your outdoor irrigation demands overall is by removing turf grass. EMWD, in partnership with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is offering $2 per square foot of turf removed. Click here for more information.
I heard there would be $500 fines for water waste...is that true?
The State Water Resources Control Board is allowing for fines of up to $500 per day for failure to implement conservation requirements. These fines are enforced by the local governing agency.
EMWD has always had a fine structure in place for our Water Use Efficiency Requirements. Currently, we issue two warnings and a third violation results in a fine. Customers who are identified as wasting water through runoff can be assessed fines starting at $25 for residential customers and $100 for commercial properties.
An EMWD staff member must witness and catalog the event before a fine is issued. However, customers may report waste and warning letters can be issued without EMWD staff witnessing the event. EMWD will be diligent with following-up on reported water waste.
I stay within my water budget already, what more am I supposed to do?
We appreciate your efforts to use water wisely! More than 80 percent of EMWD customers stay within their water budgets throughout the year. EMWD encourages customers to continue being water efficient by staying within their budget.
EMWD’s water budgets and tiered rates promote water-use efficiency and hold customers accountable for their usage. In fact, our rate structure has been cited by the State Water Resources Control Board, academic studies, and other agencies as a model for ensuring customers are held responsible for their usage while promoting water-use efficiency.
Does the drought mean EMWD customers will have mandatory cutbacks?
EMWD’s water budgets and tiered rates promote water-use efficiency and hold customers accountable for their usage. However, to support the Governor and State Water Resources Control Board's call to action, EMWD's Board of Directors will discuss moving into Stage 3 of EMWD’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan on August 20.
EMWD is currently in Stage 2 of the plan, which calls for voluntary conservation efforts. If the Board of Directors decide to move into Stage 3a, variances will no longer be granted for filling swimming pools or establishing new landscaping, nor will adjustments be granted for leaks that are not repaired within 48 hours. Stage 3b will reduce Tier 3 allocations by 50 percent, and 3c would eliminate Tier 3 allocations.
What has EMWD done to help push back mandatory restrictions?
EMWD, along with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and its member agencies, have invested more than $12 billion in conservation and local water supply projects since 1995 to help drought proof the region. These projects – such as Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet – are critical to ensuring that we can capture and store water during wet years to get us through extended dry periods like the one we are in now. EMWD has also invested heavily in recycled water, which is a sustainable resource that can be used to irrigate parks, schools and agriculture and does not pull resources away from our potable water supplies. In 2013, EMWD sold nearly 35,000 acre feet of recycled water. That saved enough potable water for nearly 70,000 families.
EMWD’s water budgets and tiered rates also promote water-use efficiency and hold customers accountable for their usage. This rate structure has been cited by the State Water Resources Control Board, academic studies, and other agencies as a model for ensuring customers are held responsible for their usage while promoting water-use efficiency.
EMWD has also doubled its conservation budget and significant portions of our charges for Tier 3 and Tier 4 are reinvested in conservation programs to assist our customers in conserving water. We have partnered with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to offer rebates on turf removal, smart irrigation controllers and other programs to promote responsible water use.
If I spot water waste, what can I do?
EMWD asks those who spot water waste to contact our Conservation Department at 951-928-3777, ext. 3322. Water waste can also be reported on our website at Report Water Waste.
My HOA will penalize me if my grass isn't properly maintained, so what can I do?
The Governor signed AB 2100 into law on July 21. This prohibits Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) from fining residents who let their lawns go brown as a result of conserving water and is in effect during all formal drought declarations by the Governor. Please note that EMWD is not the governing agency on this matter, and this law does not prevent cities or counties from issuing fines.
How long will this drought last?
Nobody knows. In 2007, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a drought declaration that was not lifted until 2009. The drought in the Colorado River Basin is in its 14th year. It is likely that the current drought declaration will remain in place for at least several years.
Is the drought affecting the entire state?
Yes. This is not a situation unique to Southern California. In fact, almost every area of California had record-low rainfalls in 2013 and 2014. Because a significant percentage of our water comes from Northern California, a dry year to the North can be more devastating to our water supply than a dry year in Southern California.
I heard on the news that some communities in Northern California may soon run out of water. Is this true?
There are communities in Northern California that are in dire situations. This is why the official drought declaration is important, as it allows the state to pave the way for water transfers to ensure that people will have enough water to drink and maintain personal hygiene.
Where does EMWD get its water from?
EMWD obtains its water from multiple sources, including the State Water Project, the Colorado River, and local groundwater supplies. A diverse water supply portfolio is important to ensure continued reliability, especially in drought situations.
The current drought has made State Water Project water from Northern California less available to EMWD this year. That means
more water is being imported from the Colorado River Aqueduct to meet water demands.
Does this mean I have to drink less tap water?
EMWD would never discourage people from drinking our tap water. In fact, bottled water uses up to three times more water because of the production process to make the plastic bottle. So drinking tap water is actually a beneficial step to help conserve our limited water supplies.
I hear a lot about the snowpack in the Sierras. Why is this important?
The snowpack in the Sierras is almost non-existent this year. This is the result of the record dry year that California experienced in 2013 and continuing dry conditions in 2014. Snowpack is important for our water supply. At EMWD, 30 to 40 percent of our water supply comes from the State Water Project – which gets much of its water from the Sierras. Snowpack is often better than rain, as it releases the water over an extended period of time and is thus much easier to capture.
What can I do to help conserve?
Most wasteful and non-essential use occurs outdoors, where more than half of the water in our service area is used. Always follow EMWD's Water Use Efficiency Requirements and customers are encouraged to stay within their water budgets by limiting sprinkler watering to no more than 2 days per week. Reducing outdoor irrigation is the quickest and most effective way to stay within budget. Customers can reduce their outdoor irrigation demands overall by removing their turf grass. EMWD, in partnership with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is offering $2 per square foot of turf removed.
Are there other resources where I can learn more on how to conserve?
Absolutely. The Association of California Water Agencies, of which EMWD is a member, has a site called www.saveourh2o.org where you can learn more on how to conserve water. Remember…there are more than 100 ways to conserve water, and they all start with you.