At the June 17 meeting, members of the State Water Resources Control Board heard an informational update on the conservation actions that urban water suppliers have taken in response to the drought. In this portion of the meeting, board members heard from the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Urban Water Agencies, and the California Urban Water Conservation Council, who shared the information on conservation and outreach that they had collected from their members.
“Hopefully as you talk with us about what your members are doing and the like, you’ll help give us some of your best thoughts about what you think we ought to do, because if I were a betting person, I’d say we’re going to do something, so it would be nice to have you help us shape it,” said Chair Felicia Marcus.
David Bolland, Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)
David Bolland began by saying that ACWA represents 90% of the public water agencies in California. ACWA member agencies provide water for both ag and urban, but he noted they do not provide water for the investor-owned utilities.
ACWA has long expressed support for urban and ag conservatio at the policy level, he said, pointing out that ACWA’s Statewide Action Plan includes a robust commitment to conservation and is endorsed by 100 of their public agencies. After Governor declared drought emergency in January, ACWA’s Board of Directors urged their member agencies to call on their customers to ramp up water conservation statewide. ACWA also recently released a Drought Impact report, which has a lot of recommendations, including conservation, he said.
“ACWA and our member agencies are continuing to lead on this issue at a policy level,” said Mr. Bolland. “We’re encouraging water conservation, water use efficiency and a commitment to the 20×2020 process.”
ACWA partners with DWR with the Save Our Water program, but also has another website called Drought Watch which tracks other drought impacts around the state, he said. The Drought Watch website has an interactive map where we graphically try to show what’s happening in California. “We’ve been asking agencies to self-report about what’s going on in terms of drought intensity,” he said. “This interactive map has been used by media sources around the world to find out what’s happening in California, and top line indications are at least 54 agencies have reported on this vehicle that they are in mandatory restrictions for conservation and 150 agencies have voluntary restrictions. We have 430 member agencies so this is a significant part of our membership that’s reporting here.”
There are drought emergencies in 28 counties and some areas are really feeling the pain right now with mandatory rationing or conservation allotments that are in effect, with the city of Avalon the latest to join the list, starting on July 1.
- 56% say that their primary source of supply has been reduced due to the drought.
- More than half are facing cutbacks in deliveries.
- About one-half are drawing down surface storage to cope.
- About one-third are relying more heavily on groundwater.
- 77% have drought contingency plans in place right now.
- 82% have expanded public education and outreach.
- 59% are offering rebates and financial incentives – “Some of these incentives are not cost-effective locally; they are expensive and turf is one of those programs that is very popular but very expensive; so are clothes washer rebates,” he said.
- 82% are seeing an increasing customer willingness to conserve – “That’s in accordance with the message that we received with Save Our Water,” he said. “A lot of people want to do something, they are just not sure it’s them – it’s usually their neighbor that’s wasting water. The other thing that is a perception thing is that they think they are wasting more water in the house than they are in the yard, so these are pretty big messaging issues.”
Bolland said that the survey was open to all of ACWA’s agencies both ag and urban, and the survey was focused more on the broader drought impacts and had a subset of questions related to conservation, as opposed to the water board’s survey which was focused more directly on conservation.
Steve Moore noted that the numbers regarding surface water and groundwater defy logic a little bit. Mr. Bolland said that in the early months, Southern California was in a secure position, and also the state is yet to enter the big water demand months, so a lot of things are going to change as we move into the summer. “The other element is the regionality and the localness of this issue in terms of the perception of the drought, the impacts of the drought, and the capabilities of the agencies and their structures to respond quickly and with significant resources,” he said.
The agencies are asking for a range of 10% up to 60% reductions in outdoor in water use; they are limiting outdoor irrigation limited to certain days and hours, there are drought related surcharges and penalties for excessive use, and they are expanding rebate and turf programs. There are paid advertising campaigns, water audits, aerators and efficient showerheads, and some even have recycled water refill stations open to all comers – people can take their water truck and save their landscaping, he said.
He then gave a few examples of specific things agencies are doing:
- Sonoma County Water Agency been carrying a customized Save Our Water program and they have 20% voluntary conservation target.
- San Diego County Water Authority is implementing a voluntary conservation program and they have their own ‘When In Drought’ campaign that is supported by $300,000 funding from DWR and they are working in consultation with Save Our Water.
- City of Sacramento has a mandatory 20% conservation requirement; so far 2300 notices of violation have been filed by the city. “Sacramento is just now getting water meters put in place, and metering is an important tool,” he said. “They are spending a million dollars on modifications in their infrastructure, as well as a ‘cash for grass’ and an enforcement campaign.”
- Metropolitan Water District has doubled its budget to $40 million, with $5.5 million on just the public education side. They have several specific classes and training programs they are providing from all of their member agencies. He noted there are about 20 million people in the service area.
- Dublin-San Ramon Services District has fairly significant water use limitation penalties; mandatory 25% reduction and a 50-60% reduction for outdoor irrigation; wash downs are prohibited; fountains are prohibited; pools have to be covered, and then numerous rebate programs. It’s a pretty significant commitment on their part, and they also have a recycled water program, and if folks have access to recycled water, they have to use that for outdoor landscaping.
“Public outreach is a key component,” he said. “The Save Our Water program is important and we want to continue to carry that forward. It’s consistent and it carries a good, strong California-scale message. However, it can be customized and that’s the great thing about it because conservation happens locally.”
Many conservation programs and enforcement activities are just now beginning to influence the water users, he said. “A lot of what we’ve heard back from our folks is that we need to see how things are perceived, and we may need to redo some of our survey work after the summer to find out what kind of response we received and then calibrate things,” he said, noting that irrigation season is really the summer, and that will present an opportunity to save a lot of water.
“We need to pace ourselves; we’re in a marathon run,” he said. “We ought to assume we’re going to be in a dry year next year, or heaven forbid, more dry years after that, so this is a marathon we’re running here. We need to pace ourselves and not burn ourselves out, and that’s an important message in terms of customer credibility. Our local agencies have a credibility level with their customers that’s a pretty significant resource, and we need to make sure the story they are telling is believable and that their customers continue to have a respect for the level of crisis that’s being communicated to them by their water agencies, and that is not the same in all parts of the state. … If dry conditions persist, all of these agencies are going to have to step up their efforts and they know that, but part of it is pacing.”
“You could say it that way, but if we’re looking at there being enough water for the people of California, spending down those storage resources this summer could be an imprudent and unreasonable thing for folks to be doing,” said Chair Felicia Marcus. She noted that in Australia kept thinking it was going to rain the next year and it didn’t. “If they had taken more prudent measures, particularly when you think about outdoor irrigation, earlier, they would have had bigger bank account of water in storage, and so that’s the $64,000 question. It seems to me that even though folks might get mad if it rains this fall and we inconvenienced them for now, if it doesn’t rain, it will have been the right thing to do, and so you want to err on the side of caution. … I say we have to assume that 2015’s going to be a nightmare, and if it’s not, we can have a party.”
“The hard part is that the answer may be different in different parts of the state no matter what happens,” responded Mr. Bolland. “There are a lot of policy considerations beyond conservation and the resources we put in conservation, because we’re working ahead on the longer term commitments to water management in California and there are some investments we need to make. Some of them certainly are going to be no regrets investments – things we can do now that are going to make our reliability better long-term, drought or no drought, and are going to reduce demand permanently.”
Policy considerations include how to measure and report drought-related conservation progress against the backdrop of on-going implementation of Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SB 7x 7) “20×2020” targets, and additional “structural” conservation is subject to “demand hardening” since the “early adopters” and “low hanging fruit” have been tapped; therefore, continued and more intense outreach and education (and additional enforcement) will be required to gain more conservation, he said.
Mr. Bolland said that water agencies need to focus on both water supply and water demand. “We’ve got to continue to realize that we’re not going to conserve our way into the future,” he said. “Conservation is an important contribution, and we are not going to short-shrift ourselves on conservation commitments, but we need to be doing recycled water, stormwater capture, groundwater remediation, desalination, new storage, surface and groundwater, all at the same time; it’s all part of the package.”
He then gave some recommendations:
- The State should continue to affirm that local water systems are in the best position to determine which water conservation programs are most effective for their customers
- Consider establishing a drought response “clearinghouse” to document effective conservation practices and results (as a toolbox for use by other agencies): “The silver bullets, the new ideas, the innovative things that are happening that our agencies are discovering as they see these conservation changes – we need to have a place where we can store all that information, and to have toolboxes available so agencies that don’t have the R&D capabilities could step in and say, we’re going to do some from menu A and some from menu B.”
- Target increased funding for water use efficiency activities in disadvantaged communities and on conservation programs that are not locally cost effective but contribute broad benefits (such as “cash for grass” programs and clothes washer rebate programs)
- The State should work with local agencies to review opportunities for more closely coordinating local water management planning documents to address in future drought contingencies (Urban Water Management Plans, Agricultural Water Management Plans, Groundwater Management Plans and Integrated Regional Water Management Plans) “We’re maybe not as adept at anticipating how droughts work and how to anticipate them within the planning structure … The idea that climate change is going to increase the frequency, and possibly the intensity of these droughts and we need to build that into our long-term management infrastructure.”
Beau Goldie, California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA)
Beau Goldie is the Chief Executive Officer of Santa Clara Valley Water District but is here today speaking as the soon-to-be chair of the California Urban Water Agencies. He began by noting that CUWA is a non-profit organization of urban water agencies with ten members. “We have both wholesale and retailers as part of the organization, and we collectively serve approximately 2/3rds of California’s population – 24 million people,” he said.
“We’ve been working individually and collectively sharing our information and our ideas to really plan for the long term,” he said, presenting a graphic depicting both overall supplies in 1990 and the projected supplies for 2030. He noted that the increased demand will be taken care of through ag efficiencies, conservation savings, and recycled water. “Our agencies have been working to make sure that our communities have both a reliable and resilient water supply for periods of drought like we’re into now.”
He then presented a graph showing current and future projected savings for water supply. “You can see from this graphic that in 2010 we have savings of about 1 million acre-feet and we are projected to get up to 1.8 million acre-feet per year in annual savings by 2030,” Mr. Goldie said. “We have been effectively managing our water demands for a number of years; since the 1990s, we have had population growth of 25% and during that time, the increased demand on water supply has only been about 3%, so that’s a significant savings that is based upon a lot of the programs that we have been putting in place on water conservation.”
CUWA agencies have collectively invested over $21 billion in our infrastructure so we can have reliable systems to help us through drought conditions, he said. “We have increased our conservation programs themselves, and all of our agencies have implemented their contingency plans based upon the Governor’s call. … We have compiled information on the near drought response actions that our agencies work together and we actually share the information so we can implement the best practices.”
The CUWA agencies are on track for 2020, Mr. Goldie said, presenting a graph showing a breakdown by retailers. He noted that the wholesalers are supplementing it with both Metropolitan and Santa Clara expecting to exceed it by 700,000 acre-feet.
We’ve been getting good response from the outreach on the drought, he said. “We have a fourfold increase in conservation to staff phone calls; we’ve more than tripled our requests for high efficiency toilets; there’s almost thirty times more requests for residential conservation kits; and we have a tenfold increase in turf replacement rebates,” he said, noting that these programs are in place and they are hoping to start realizing some of the conservation savings just in time for the high summer demands.
Mr. Goldie noted that there are many reports available at the CUWA website, www.cuwa.org.
Greg Weber, California Urban Water Conservation Council
Greg Weber began by saying that from a lot of people’s perspective, conservation is only a response to a crisis, but we have working for over 20 years, and this is a long term investment in changing Californians relationship and their behavior towards their water.
The California Urban Water Conservation Council now has almost 300 retail members, about 40 wholesale utilities, and almost 20 environmental groups who have signed the MOU, he said, noting that being signatories, it means they subscribe to the general principles, but don’t necessarily report. “I do want to make it clear that it is under the MOU that it is a voluntary action on the part of our members to report.” He also noted that the data is preliminary and is from 2011-12, which is the reporting cycle just being completed now.
The brand hallmarks for the past 20 years have been the best management practices (BMPs), he said. The BMPs were originally more numerous, but were recently reorganized into foundational and programmatic. Everybody who reports gives data for the foundational BMPs, BMP1 and BMP2, and only the retail agencies report on the programmatic BMPs, BMP3 – 5. There are about 200 retail and wholesale utilities reporting, he said.
On the BMPs 3, 4, and 5, there are a variety of options for the retail agencies to use to report on these, he said, noting that three-quarters are now using the GPCD option, which calculates things slightly differently from the state’s 20×2020 approach.
BMP 1.1 is a big part of utility operations, he said. “All of our utilities have water waste prevention practices, so they have all the tools in place that are required such as waste prevention ordinances. Water loss control is the newest BMP that the Council adopted, and great progress has been made on that and continued progress is anticipated. For the last reported year, 2012, about 11,000 miles of utility systems were checked for leaks.”
Another BMP 1 requirement is metering with commodity rates, he said. “Of the 16 largest unmetered utilities around the state, there’s been an over 50% decrease in the number of unmetered connections just between 2009 and 2012, so factor in the lag time and the number should be going down as well. And lastly, on retail conservation pricing, we have about 70% of our reporting utilities that are either on track, exempt, or partially metered.”
He then presented a slide showing the reported water rate structures for single family homes, noting that it’s divided up into increasing block, uniform, allocation based, increasing block seasonal, and other types. “You can see that a substantial portion of the state does in fact report on increasing block and the number that are doing uniform are going down,” he said.
For BMP2, over $26 million was reportedly spent on public information programs, and another $7.6 million on school education programs, and this was prior to the drought crisis, he said.
“Lastly, it’s not all about the long term,” Mr. Weber said. “The BMPs themselves are a great tool kit, and while they contemplate implementation over time, for agencies that are trying to ramp up their efforts, that’s a great place to look to see how much of this they are doing, whether they are a signatory or not.”
We’re going to build a jumpstart tool kit – not to duplicate the efforts of Save Our Water, but to provide other types of information, such as sample water waste ordinances, trends, implementation programs, and water shortage rate structures, he said. The Council has received a grant to pool the how-to videos being produced across the state and put them in a clearing house, and they also going to be improving their residential water conservation website, H2ouse.
For more information …
- To view the power points from all presentations, click here.
Coming tomorrow …
The State Water Board hears from the Santa Cruz water department, the Sacramento Regional Water Authority, Eastern Municipal Water District, and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency on their efforts at conservation.
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