The California State Water Resources Control Board has adopted new performance standards for urban retail water suppliers—the utilities that deliver water to people in California cities—estimated to save about 88,000 acre-feet of water a year, or enough to provide more of 260,000 families, requiring suppliers to monitor and reduce losses in their distribution systems.
“As climate change induces warmer and drier conditions, we must conserve water as much as possible and become more efficient on all fronts,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, president of the State Water Board. “Water loss from drinking water distribution systems is often out of sight. The new performance standards will not only reduce water loss by more than a third, but also reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the amount of water that needs to be treated and distributed.
To take effect in April 2023, the new rules will lead to more efficient use of water in California by providing retail suppliers with a volumetric standard that establishes cost-effective levels of attainable water loss, given the characteristics and budgets of their water systems. Suppliers will be required to begin meeting individual volumetric loss standards for a three-year period beginning January 1, 2028.
It is not “one size fits all”
The standards are not a one-size-fits-all approach to solving water waste; they are designed to give each water supplier the flexibility to choose their own approach to meeting the standards for their systems. Some systems, such as those of disadvantaged communities, may be given more time to meet regulatory criteria.
Performance standards for water loss form one component of the conservation framework established by SB 606 and AB 1668 in 2018, known as Making Conservation a California Way of Life Legislation, which created a foundation for long-term improvements in water conservation to adapt to climate change. The legislation directs the development of standards and targets that require water suppliers to use water more efficiently.
Until now, monitoring and mitigation of water loss has been limited to voluntary efforts by suppliers.
This situation also reinforces the importance of having drought-resistant seeds for hemp and other crops as climate change continues its advance.
The mission of the State Water Board is to preserve, enhance and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water to protect the environment and public health, and to ensure the correct allocation of resources and efficient use for present and future generations.