NOTICE: Drought Conservation Emergency Regulation – January 2022

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

On January 4, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation that prohibits certain wasteful water use practices statewide and encourages Californians to monitor their water use more closely while supporting habits to use water wisely. That regulation will be effective starting on or about January 14, 2022.

The Conservation Emergency Regulation program page has been updated with the latest documents, including frequently asked questions (FAQ). For these and other resources, please see the list of links at the end of this email.

Important highlights from the FAQ:

  • Who is subject to enforcement (warnings, fines, etc.) for engaging in prohibited water uses?
    Most of the prohibitions apply to individual water users, which in some cases includes cities, counties, and businesses to the extent those entities engage in prohibited activities. The prohibition against watering turf on public street medians, for example, is more likely to apply to local governments than to individual homeowners. The prohibition relating to using potable water in decorative fountains may apply to individual homeowners, state and local government, and some commercial properties. The homeowners’ association (HOA) provision would also prohibit HOAs from fining residents who are taking some appropriate drought responses.
  • Who may enforce the emergency regulation’s prohibitions?
    In addition to being enforceable by the State Water Resources Control Board, any local agency, city, or county (or city and county) that has authority to enforce infractions will be able to enforce these prohibitions at their discretion. The regulation would give local government/agencies the ability to pursue their own enforcement but does not constrain their discretion in how they use their enforcement resources. Enforcement may include warning letters, mandatory water use audits (for large commercial or institutional properties), and fines (up to $500 per day). Before imposing monetary penalties, the Board has directed staff, and encouraged other enforcing entities, to provide one or more warnings, to consider peoples’ ability to pay, to consider payment plans of at least 12 months without a tax lien, and to not cause peoples’ water service to be shut off for nonpayment. The Board also encourages agencies to provide assistance to disadvantaged communities, including translation of water conservation announcements into various languages.
  • Are local agencies required to use the emergency regulation’s enforcement authority?
    Local government/agencies retain their discretion in how they use their enforcement resources; nothing about this regulation gives water waste infractions priority over other infractions or requires any specific enforcement. Local government/agencies also may choose to enforce their own drought conservation rules in their discretion, including those in their Water Shortage Contingency Plans (WSCPs), as opposed to the emergency regulation. The emergency regulation gives local agencies additional options to deal with water waste.
  • What are examples of health and safety needs?
    The State Water Resources Control Board has included a “health and safety” exemption to allow the otherwise prohibited water use practices to address reasonable and legitimate healthy and safety needs. Examples of activities where water applications may be necessary to address a health or safety need include controlling nuisance dust, suppressing fires, removing pathogenic waste from sidewalks (such as animal waste), and using potable water that is likely to have direct human contact necessitating drinkable water. When feasible, however, a broom or similar method of cleaning that doesn’t use potable water should be used.

Helpful links:

If you have any further questions after referring to the links above, contact Chris Hyun at

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