On April 7, 2017 Governor Brown rescinded California’s drought-related state of emergency for most counties in light of improved hydrological conditions. Though putting an end to the declared emergency in our region, Governor Brown still calls for all Californians to “make conservation a way of life.”
The news was welcomed by Olivenhain Municipal Water District, which had certified to California’s State Water Resources Control Board in 2016 that it had sufficient water supply to meet demands even if it experienced three consecutive years of drought conditions. Since that time, California experienced its wettest winter on record such that only 8 percent of the state continues to contend with drought conditions.
With the drought emergency officially ended, OMWD encourages legislators and the SWRCB to ensure that long-term water use efficiency measures being crafted to satisfy the governor’s executive order B-37-16 are appropriate to current hydrological conditions. Existing proposals would limit indoor per-capita water use for each Californian to only 55 gallons per day regardless of water supply and limit the use of recycled water—such proposals would unnecessarily impact California’s homes and businesses even when no drought conditions exist.
As the state moves toward permanent water use restrictions and statewide drought-response measures, OMWD will continue our leadership role in advocating for customers. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to drought response, it is imperative that water agencies retain local control of water management as they are best suited to determine actual supply and demand conditions, as well as measures to achieve water reductions when warranted. It is also critical that recycled water is exempt from future demand reductions as ratepayers have already made significant investment in developing this alternative to potable water, which is the ultimate form of conservation. OMWD encourages customers to join the conversation by sending comment letters to the state as possible state mandates may cause undue burden on water agencies, increasing costs that will ultimately be borne by ratepayers.
On July 15, 2014 California’s State Water Resources Control Board implemented emergency regulations designed to limit outdoor irrigation and eliminate water waste which OMWD adopted. On March 27, 2015 the SWRCB announced additional emergency regulations, and on April 1, 2015, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order calling for statewide water use reductions. SWRCB announced new statewide conservation measures which were implemented by the Office of Administrative Law on May 18, 2015.
California entered its fifth year of historic drought in 2016 following some of the driest years on record. On February 11, 2016, SWRCB extended restrictions through October 31, 2016 due to ongoing drought conditions, while providing water suppliers more flexibility in meeting their conservation requirements. SWRCB recognized the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant as a drought-resilient water supply and reduced the state-mandated targets for conservation by 8% region wide. This reduced OMWD’s requirement of a 32% reduction in use compared to 2013 usage to a 24% reduction effective March 1, 2016.
On May 9, 2016, Governor Brown signed Executive Order B-37-16 ordering the State Water Resource Control Board to adjust emergency water conservation regulations through the end of January 2017, and to permanently prohibit practices that waste potable water.
On May 18, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation that called for water agencies to self-certify their conservation target based off a supply and demand approach, accounting for three years of future drought conditions. San Diego County Water Authority, the region’s wholesaler and source of 100% of OMWD’s potable water supply, has determined that local supply will meet regional demand based on this data and underlying analysis, OMWD self-certified as a regional group with SDCWA’s member agencies for a conservation standard of zero percent.
OMWD’s Board of Directors unanimously approved at its July 20, 2016 meeting moving out of a Level 2 Water Supply Shortage and into a Level 1 Water Supply Condition. In addition, the board approved moving from Level 2 water rates to Level 1 water rates, effective with the July 31, 2016 bills.
On November 30, 2016, state agencies released a draft report addressing elements of Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-37-16. The order requires five state agencies to develop a framework for water use in California. The public agencies consist of California Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and California Department of Food and Agriculture. The draft plan proposes long-term regulations to reduce water use in California that include adopting permanent water use restrictions, setting water budgets for agencies regardless of local water supply, and reducing the use of recycled water.
In February 2017, OMWD advised California’s State Water Resources Control Board to allow drought-related emergency regulations to expire. Despite the advice of OMWD and agencies across the state including regional water wholesaler San Diego County Water Authority, SWRCB unanimously approved renewal of the existing drought emergency regulation for an additional 270 days, statewide water use restrictions, and extra monthly reporting for water agencies.
OMWD’s Water Supply Shortage Conditions Ordinance establishes water management requirements necessary to conserve water. OMWD is closely monitoring statewide water supplies. Additionally, OMWD continues to diversify our water supply sources to reduce our reliance on imported water. For example, OMWD recently completed the Village Park Recycled Water Project, we continue to explore the feasibility of a brackish groundwater desalination facility in our service area, and we also benefit from the completion of the Carlsbad Desalination Facility.