California water use restrictions may indicate future trends

In the face of a major drought California has introduced new emergency rules to restrict water use. With drought potentially becoming more common across many parts of North America, including in Canada, and with California frequently being cited as a leader in environmental initiatives, industrial, commercial and institutional water users as well as property developers would be well advised to watch the California initiatives as a guide to water use restrictions that might in future come to other regions.

Most of the California initiatives relate to urban outdoor uses of water: irrigation of landscaping, washing of vehicles, washing of paved surfaces, decorative fountains, etc. Specific measures include:

  • education of water users and employees of water suppliers;
  • encouragement of use of reclaimed or recycled water;
  • acceleration of projects that will conserve potable water by making use of non-potable supplies, such as recycled water, greywater, and stormwater collection;
  • prohibition of use of potable water in fountains and other outdoor water features;
  • banning application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
  • prohibiting use of a hose that dispenses potable water to wash a motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;
  • prohibiting application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks;
  • limiting outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days per week;
  • dissemination of information regarding opportunities and incentives to upgrade indoor fixtures and appliances;
  • improved distribution system leak reporting and response programs;
  • encouraging water users to seek out and fix leaks;
  • water loss audits;
  • setting “drought rates” (special water surcharges) to discourage water use;
  • encourage and promote new technologies that reduce water usage.

The State regulation can be found at

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