California water regulator proposes weakening urban conservation goals

By Camille von Kaenel | 03/13/2024 01:04 PM EDT

The Water Resources Control Board faced a scathing rebuke from legislative advisers and mounting opposition from cities over its previous proposal.

SACRAMENTO, California — California’s water regulator proposed delaying requirements for cities to conserve supplies in a revised proposal Tuesday after a legislative analyst called a previous version of the rules too difficult to achieve and costly.

Under the updated proposal, water agencies would have to start meeting conservation targets in 2027, instead of 2025. They would have to show they are reducing their per capita water use by an average of no less than 1 percent per year, instead of 2 percent. And they would have to meet interim outdoor water use targets every five years starting in 2035, not 2030.

“Conservation is a key tool to help the state better manage our diminishing water supply in a new climate reality,” said Eric Oppenheimer, executive director for the board, in a press release. “The changes to the draft regulation propose a way to do this that maintains the state’s commitment to conservation while making it easier for water suppliers to meet their efficiency goals.”


The State Water Resources Control Board’s rules would implement legislation passed in 2018, during the heart of the state’s last drought. S.B. 606 and A.B. 1668 directed the water board to set conservation targets for urban water agencies.