California Water Use Restrictions: What Will This Mean For Commercial Businesses?

Ken Holiday

Water costs have been on the rise for years – in fact, from 2008 to 2012 water rates rose an average of 30 percent across North America. This upward trend toward increasing water rates is not slowing in certain regions of the United States given the low precipitation in recent years and extreme winter drought conditions. Water use regulation has also been on the rise, and on the heels of record-low snowfalls this winter, the Governor of California has set a 25 percent reduction goal for potable water in the state. How the goal will be met is up to the individual water districts as the state’s 400 local water supply agencies will be responsible for coming up with restrictions to cut back on water use and for monitoring compliance. So what does this mean for commercial businesses? This is a complicated issue as the state set the goal and requires local agencies to implement regulations to meet the goal – and local water utilities are uncertain how to enforce it. Further complicating the issue is the inconsistency in reduction goals among water districts. The reduction goals ranged from 10 to 35 percent but were updated on April 18th to a range of 8 percent for low use districts to 36 percent for high water use districts.

Consumption equality is also a problem to be faced. For example, daily average consumption in one water district may be 45.3 gallons per person with a 10 percent reduction required, while in a neighboring city with higher average consumption, a 25 percent reduction still results in higher daily average consumption per person.

With the state setting goals that must be enforced by the local water districts, the strategies to reduce water consumption will be unique to each water district’s choice of incentives, restrictions, rate design and fines while not exceeding their cost of producing and delivering the water.

When will we see specific regulations? According to this article, the State Water Resources Control Board is expected to approve specific regulations May 5.

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