California Water Commission: Will the state meet its 20×2020 water conservation goal? Plus an update on SWP contract negotiations, the public benefits of water storage projects, a Statewide Water Action Plan and more

Legislation passed in 2009 set an ambitious target for statewide water conservation: a 20% reduction in urban per capita water use by the year 2020, but will the state meet the goal?  Manucher Alemi updated the California Water Commission on the state’s progress towards the conservation goal at the Commission’s August 21st meeting.  Also on the agenda, an update on the contract negotiation process currently underway for State Water Project contractors, the draft regulations for determining the public benefits of water storage projects is preparing for its first round of public comment, an update on the development of a Statewide Water Action Plan, and a briefing on the Water Resources Development Act of 2013.


As part of the Comprehensive Water Package passed in 2009, SBX7-7 established requirements to maximize the state’s urban water efficiency and conservation in order to achieve a 20% per capita reduction in urban water use by 2020.  Manucher Alemi with the Department of Water Resources updated the Commission on the status of the state’s water conservation efforts.

Slide 2Mr. Alemi began with some basic statistics.  In 2010, the state’s population was 37.3 million, and out of that, 94% (35 million) are served by water suppliers that are subject to the requirement of reducing per capita water use.  Of the remaining 6%, about 5% are served by water suppliers that are small enough to be under the threshold of the requirement for preparing urban water management plans and the remainder are self-supplied. Out of state’s entire population, the urban water agencies that have submitted plans setting targets for 2020 cover 90% of the population, so 10% of population is likely not doing anything towards 2020, he said.

Of the state’s 406 retail urban water suppliers, 370 of them have submitted plans; DWR has completed review of over 100 of those plans; the remainder of the plans have undergone an initial review with the review process continuing.  Of the 40 wholesalers in the state, 39 of them submitted plans.  Mr. Alemi noted that wholesalers not required to develop any conservation targets, only retail suppliers. He also noted that there isn’t a very clear consequence for not filing an urban water management plan.  There is also a provision in the law that no action can be taken until after 2020; however, if a supplier doesn’t submit a plan, they can’t apply for any state funding or grants.

The Urban Water Management Plans describe the supplier’s service area, the population, the current water supplies and what kind of water supply projects currently implemented as well as any future projects that are definite.  The plans also detail past and present water use and project future water use; they define a baseline and set targets for 2015 and 2020, and present the strategies and measures being taken for reducing per capita water use such as plumbing retrofits, water metering, pricing structures, and educational programs.  The plans also address water supply reliability and lay out a water shortage contingency plan in case of severe shortage.  Mr. Alemi also mentioned that DWR is planning to develop new guidebook for 2015 plan that will provide additional info how to comply with requirements.

Slide 5Mr. Alemi displayed a map that shows the average baseline, weighted by population.  The overall average baseline for the state is 196 gallons per capita per day.  In order to achieve a 20% reduction and comply with 2020, the per capita water use would need to decrease to 157 gallons per day – a reduction in demand of 1.8 million acre-feet.  However, the average reported target by the agency plans is only 164 gallons per day, which is 16% based on the numbers received from the 355 plans.  “Therefore our estimate for 2020 is that if all urban water suppliers actually meet their plan targets, the demand reduction for 2020 would be 1.4 million acre-feet, based on what they have planned so far,” Mr. Alemi said.  “So we would be short of 20% by 2020 if suppliers only meet their planned targets.  Of course we have to wait until 2015 or 2020 to see their actual water use at that time and compare it with their baseline to see if they actually meet their planned target.“

Slide 6Mr. Alemi pointed out there was a bit of a dilemma with the 2015 plans.  “The 2015 plans are due January 1st of 2016, and they are supposed to report their 2015 water use in the urban water management plans, so it would be practically impossible for an urban water agency to have all of their water use measured at the end of December,” he said, noting that the plans also have to undergo a public review process and receive board approval.  He pointed out that in 2010, the agencies were given until July 1st.  DWR cannot change this; it will require a legislative fix, Mr. Alemi said.

The legislation also required state agencies to reduce their water use in their facilities by 20%.  In 2012, the Governor issued an executive order that required state facilities to reduce, measure, and report their water use.  The Green Building Action Plan required DWR to develop guidelines on how state agencies would comply with this executive order and meet requirement of the law. DWR has completed the guidelines and a criterion for measuring water use, identified the BMPs, and is recommending using the same data reporting mechanism that is used for energy use reporting to EPA, Mr. Alemi said.    A management memo is in its final review process and is expected to be adopted; once completed, it will be submitted to the Department of General Services to be incorporated into the state administrative manual.  State agencies were required to start measuring their water use starting Jan 2013, he said.


Carl Torgersen, Deputy Director of the State Water Project updated the Commission on the status of the water contract extensions.  Most of the 29 water supply contracts were signed in the 1960s; most terminate in 2035 although a few do continue to 2042.  DWR cannot sell revenue bonds beyond the contracts expiration date of 2035, so capital payments are more expensive.  DWR is looking to extend the terms of the contract and increase cash reserves.  The contractors are looking for more input and a simplified billing process. The end result of the negotiations will be “Agreements in Principle” that will be the basis for the actual contract amendment language.  Since May, six negotiation sessions have been held so far; next negotiation session is September 4.  A CEQA process will be initiated at the end of negotiations and an EIR prepared; the goal is to complete the process in 2015.

  • Click here for Carl Togersen’s power point presentation.


Over the past few months, ACWA has been leading an effort to bring together various water interests to develop a Statewide Water Action Plan (SWAP) that will make recommendations for specific near-term actions.  Paul Massera from the Department of Water Resources briefed the Commission on how the SWAP interacts with the California Water Plan.  He explained that the California Water Plan and the SWAP are two distinct plans:  The water plan is very broad, containing over 200 recommendations whereas SWAP is more specific, short term oriented, and perhaps more actionable.  “The SWAP is an opportunity to prioritize and select recommendations that can be used in the CWP to actually move them forward in a meaningful way,” he said.  A public review draft of the latest California Water Plan is due out in September; the SWAP will likely be presented at the October plenary for the water plan.

  • For more on the Statewide Water Action Plan, click here for an article from ACWA’s Water News.


The Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2009 (Water Code Section 74744), requires the California Water Commission to develop and adopt, by regulation, methods for the quantifying the public benefits associated with water storage projects such as water quality benefits, ecosystem restoration, flood control benefits, emergency response, and outdoor recreation.  Although this section of the water code won’t become operative unless the voters approve the water bond in 2014, the Commission has already been working on developing guidelines and potential regulations.  During the meeting, the Commissioners made some adjustments to the draft regulations; staff will incorporate the changes and return in September.  If approved by the Commission at the September meeting, the guidelines and draft regulations will be circulated for public comment.  The Commission plans to develop two additional drafts in January 2014 and May 2014; each draft will be available for public review for at least 60 days.

  • Click here for the draft regulations reviewed at the meeting (Note: latest changes not incorporated).
  • Click here for more information on the California Water Commission’s project on the public benefits of storage.


Dave Gutierrez, DWR’s Chief of the Division of the Safety of Dams and also a member of the federal legislative advocacy team, briefed the Commission on the Water Resources Development Act of 2013.  A version of the Act has passed the Senate; the House is now working on their own version.  There are several items of interest to DWR and the state of California in the legislation including provisions that address levee vegetation and regional crediting, establish pilot projects to address efficiency and funding issues, and reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program.  The Commission will send a letter of support for the legislation, with some changes in wording requested by Commissioner Delfino.

  • Click here for the staff report from the California Water Commission.

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