RATIONING BEGINS: California water board to require reduced indoor water use for citizens
Residents of the Golden State ought to expect water rationing for their homes, as the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is set to mandate lower indoor water-use standards.
According to Climate Depot, the SWRCB – which is under the California Environmental Protection Agency – will cap indoor water use standards to 47 gallons per person starting in 2025. It will then reduce the standard to 42 gallons in 2030.
Its decision followed an October hearing about Senate Bill (SB) 1157, which was passed by the California Legislature in 2022 and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the same year. SB 1157 codified the water use standards the SWRCB proposed. According to the hearing’s fact sheet, the Golden State has always experienced large swings between dry and wet weather and due to climate change, these are becoming more severe.
“The recent storms and flooding seen statewide following years of back-to-back extreme drought make clear the importance of staying prepared. Hotter and drier periods that are increasing in frequency, reduced snowpack and drier soils are making our water supplies more vulnerable,” it pointed out. (Related: Washington state declares drought emergencies in 12 counties.)
But according to National Review, total urban water consumption in California has been falling each year since the mid-1990s despite the growth of the state’s population to more than 39 million. At just over seven million acre-feet (MAF) per year in 2022, urban water consumption hasn’t been this low since 1985 when the population of the state was only 26 million.
The Golden State’s water authorities and environmentalists aren’t satisfied, however. SB 1157 seeks a massive reduction in consumption by 400,000 acre-feet per year by 2030. Diversions, which pertain to rainfall captured in reservoirs during the summer and fall seasons and released for future use, have a much bigger impact on the water supply. Agricultural diversions average 30 MAF annually, while diversions to maintain ecosystem health range between 20 MAF in dry years to over 60 MAF in wet years.
The targeted urban water consumption represents barely more than one-half of one percent of the amount of water California diverts and manages even in its driest years.
Water board’s impact analysis is flawed
Drafted in 1957, California’s original water plan called for an eventual statewide system capable of delivering 40 MAF to farms and 10 MAF to cities each year. While this wasn’t completed, the system has become a remarkable example, delivering around 30 MAF per year to state farmers and around seven MAF to the cities.
But according to critics, over 25 MAF of water passed through the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and out to the Pacific Ocean in the water season that just ended. This amount, they argue, is easily more than twice what is required for the health of delta ecosystems. Had this water been stored, it would have offered enough supplemental supply to easily withstand several years of drought.
Critics also pointed out that California is misguided by a set of laws that remove the incentive for water agencies to invest in more water supplies. “These laws will actually fine water agencies if they deliver too much water to their urban customers. Water agencies need to be incentivized to increase their supply capacity, not reduce it,” Climate Depot noted.
“Water is life. Having as much as we need, affordable and abundant, is a goal that is achievable and sustainable. It’s time for Californians to reject extremist mandates and restore the quality of life that is in keeping with their heritage.”
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Watch the video below that talks about California’s water wars.
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