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Water Conservation Emergency Regulations

As climate change-induced extreme weather continues to disrupt California’s water system, the State Water Resources Control Board has adopted two emergency regulations that prohibit certain wasteful water use practices statewide and encourage water suppliers and Californians to monitor water use more closely while building habits to use water wisely and make conservation a way of life. Local water suppliers may have adopted stricter water conservation measures than the State Water Board’s, so water customers should check with local agencies about their current restrictions.

Download the Statewide Water Restrictions flyer (12/12/2022) - share with water customers and HOA residents

Download the Frequently Asked Questions document (1/27/2023)

What current water use restrictions apply to all Californians?

State Water Board water conservation requirements are listed in the table below. There are also requirements not listed here. Column A lists prohibitions on the use of potable water that apply to all Californians. Column B lists additional requirements for urban water suppliers. This table was updated on December 14, 2022.

WHEN IN EFFECT A. PROHIBITED FOR ALL CALIFORNIANS B. ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR URBAN WATER SUPPLIERS
[1] Effective until December 2023
  • Outdoor watering that lets water run onto sidewalks and other areas (except incidental runoff)
  • Washing vehicles without an automatic shutoff nozzle
  • Washing hard surfaces like driveways or sidewalks that don’t absorb water
  • Street cleaning or construction site preparation
  • Filling decorative fountains, lakes, or ponds without a recirculation pump
  • Outdoor watering within 48 hours after at least 1/4 inch of rainfall
  • Watering decorative grass on public medians
  • Follow all prohibitions in column A
  • If needed, exercise authority to adopt more stringent local conservation measures
[2] Effective until June 2023
  • Watering decorative grass in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas, including common areas of homeowners’ associations (HOAs)
Note: You may also be a customer of a local water supplier that adopted different and/or stricter water conservation measures; check with your supplier about its current restrictions.
  • Follow all prohibitions in column A
  • Implement all local Level 2 demand reduction actions [*]
  • If needed, exercise authority to adopt more stringent local conservation measures
Enforcement
  • All water use prohibitions in column A are “infractions,” and any organization or public entity that already has the authority to enforce infractions may do so; this may include local water suppliers and cities.
  • Public entities include: a city, whether general law or chartered, county, city and county, special district, agency, authority, any other municipal public corporation or district, or any other political subdivision of the state.
  • Violations may be punishable by a fine of up to $500 per day.
  • Before imposing monetary penalties, the Board directs staff and encourages other entities to provide one or more warnings; monetary penalties should be based on an ability to pay determination, consider allowing a payment plan of at least 12 months, and shall not result in a tax lien; and Board enforcement shall not result in shutoff.
  • To report a potential water use violation, go to SaveWater.CA.Gov on your phone or computer.

[1] = These requirements are from the water conservation emergency regulation to prohibit wasteful water uses that was readopted in December 2023 and is in effect for one year from the effective date, unless the State Water Board modifies, readopts, or ends it before then. Find regulation documents below.

[2] = These requirements are from the water conservation emergency regulation to reduce water demand and ban watering of decorative grass that became effective in June 2022 and is in effect for one year from the effective date, unless the State Water Board modifies, readopts, or ends it before then. Find regulation documents below.

[*] = "Level 2" refers to the second level of urban water suppliers’ water shortage contingency plan as defined by the State. Local water suppliers may use different words and definitions to indicate water shortage levels, such as stages or phases. Check with your local water supplier to know what is required by your supplier’s Level 2. Local suppliers should have a “crosswalk” diagram that compares the State’s Levels and local levels.

Should I follow state and local water use restrictions?

Yes, in most cases you should follow both state and local restrictions. The State Water Board’s restrictions that apply to all Californians are in column A of the table above, which include all the water use prohibitions and the ban on watering decorative grass in commercial, industrial, and institutional areas (including common areas of HOAs). You may also be a customer of a local water supplier that adopted stricter water conservation measures; check with your supplier about their current restrictions. You can find your local water supplier by clicking “Find Local Water Agency” on the website, SaveOurWater.com .

What are HOA requirements during drought emergencies, especially the ban on watering decorative grass?

The ban on using potable water to irrigate decorative grass applies to property a homeowners’ association (HOA) owns or maintains, and not the grass of individual residences (or separate interests). While an individual’s property is considered residential, property owned or maintained by an HOA is treated the same as other landscapes owned by commercial or institutional entities. The regulation does not ban watering grass with recycled water, watering grass regularly used for recreation or community activities, or watering trees or other plants.

An HOA should review areas of grass that it maintains, consult with residents, and determine whether the grass is decorative (“non-functional”). Water suppliers may defer to HOAs’ determinations that specific areas of grass are used for recreation or community events. However, water suppliers also retain the authority to enforce the watering ban if there is a documented violation.

According to the Davis-Stirling Act, an HOA may not impose a fine for reducing watering of lawns or vegetation during a drought emergency that was either declared by the Governor or local government. Additionally, homeowners may remove their lawns and replace them with water-wise plants. If a homeowner installs water-efficient landscaping during the drought, an HOA cannot prevent them from maintaining it or require them to remove it when there is no longer a drought state of emergency. An HOA also cannot prohibit, or include conditions that have the effect of prohibiting, the use of low water-using plants as a group or as a replacement of existing grass. Please refer to the documents and links below for more information on HOAs and drought emergency resources:

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Contact Us

Media Contact:

Edward Ortiz, Office of Public Affairs
Edward.Ortiz@Waterboards.ca.gov

Water Conservation Emergency Regulations Questions:

Chris Hyun
(916) 322-9633
Christopher.Hyun@waterboards.ca.gov

Paola Gonzalez
(916) 322-8417
Paola.Gonzalez@waterboards.ca.gov

Current Statewide Water Conservation Emergency Regulations

The water use restrictions table at the top of this webpage is based on current statewide water conservation emergency regulations. The boxes below contain the documents and details of each emergency regulation.

Emergency Regulation to Prohibit Wasteful Water Uses (effective since January 2022)

In 2021, Governor Newsom proclaimed a drought state of emergency for all counties in California, urging Californians to step up their water conservation efforts and encouraging the State Water Board to prohibit certain wasteful water uses. The State Water Board has found that an emergency exists due to drought conditions. To ensure all Californians take sufficient steps to save water and preserve the State’s water supply, the State Water Board has taken the actions in the following timeline.

Timeline

  • January 4, 2022: State Water Board adopted the prohibited wasteful water uses emergency regulation.
  • December 7, 2022: State Water Board readopted the prohibited wasteful water uses emergency regulation.
  • December 21, 2022: Readopted emergency regulation took effect, upon completion of Office of Administrative Law process. It will remain in effect for one year from the effective date, unless the State Water Board modifies it, readopts it, or ends it before then.

Prohibited Wasteful Water Uses Emergency Regulation Requirements (see Regulation Text below for full list of requirements)

  • Turn off decorative water fountains
  • Turn off/pause your irrigation system when it's raining and for two days after rain
  • Use an automatic shutoff nozzle on your water hose
  • Use a broom, not water, to clean sidewalks and driveways
  • Give trees just what they need: avoid overwatering

December 2022 Readoption Documents

January 2022 Emergency Regulation Documents

Emergency Regulation to Reduce Water Demand and Ban Decorative Grass Watering (effective since June 10, 2022)

On March 28, 2022, Governor Newsom directed the State Water Board to consider adopting further emergency regulations for urban water conservation. On May 24, 2022, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation. On June 10, 2022, the emergency regulation went into effect. It will remain in effect for one year from the effective date, unless the Board modifies it, readopts it, or ends it before then.

Emergency Regulation Requirements (more in the documents below)

  • Commercial, industrial, and institutional decorative grass should not be watered (with limited exceptions)
  • Give all trees just what they need: avoid overwatering
  • All urban water suppliers must implement all Level 2 demand reduction actions in their water shortage contingency plans (with limited exceptions)
  • Urban water suppliers without adopted water shortage contingency plans must take specified actions

Emergency Regulation Documents

Timeline

  • April 21, 2022: Public webinar held for input based on a working staff draft of regulation text
  • May 13, 2022: Agenda item with proposed emergency regulation text posted on State Water Board website
  • May 24, 2022: Resolution and emergency regulation adopted during the Board meeting
  • June 10, 2022: Emergency regulation took effect, upon completion of Office of Administrative Law process

Emergency Rulemaking Archive

  The water conservation emergency regulations below are not in effect. They are listed here only for reference.

Following unprecedented water conservation and plentiful winter rain and snow, on April 7, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. ended the drought State of Emergency in most of California, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or right after rainfall. Executive Order B‑40‑17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. The Order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four drought-related Executive Orders issued in 2014 and 2015. Executive Order B-40-17 builds on actions taken in Executive Order B‑37‑16, which remains in effect, to continue making water conservation a way of life in California. The State Water Resources Control Board maintains urban water use reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices such as watering during or after rainfall, hosing off sidewalks and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians. As directed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in Executive Order B-37-16, the Board will separately take action to make reporting and wasteful water practices permanent.

State Water Board Partially Repeals Emergency Regulation on April 26, 2017

The Executive Director for the State Water Resources Control Board rescinds the water supply stress test requirements and remaining mandatory conservation standards for urban water suppliers. The action was in response to Governor Brown's announcement earlier this month ending the drought state of emergency and transitioning to a permanent framework for making water conservation a California way of life. Current prohibitions against wasteful water use practices and requirements for monthly water use reporting remain in place.

Supporting Documents Process

Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life, Implementing Executive Order B-37-16 On Wednesday, November 30, 2016, State Agencies released to the public a draft report for Making Water Conservation A California Way of Life. The Draft Report addresses elements of Executive Order B-37-16, which asked five state agencies to develop a framework for using water more wisely, eliminating water waste, strengthening local drought resilience, and improving agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning. The public agencies, including the Department of Water Resources, State Water Board, California Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, and Department of Food and Agriculture, will accept comments on the report through December 19, 2016 (please send all comments to: wue@water.ca.gov).

Self-Certification of Supply Reliability "Stress Test" Results - August 2016 State Water Board Adopts Emergency Regulation on May 18, 2016

Emergency Regulation and Implementation Supporting Documents

Process to Adjust February 2016 Regulation in Response to Precipitation Since February 2016

State Water Boards Adopts Extended Regulations for Water Conservation on February 2, 2016

Documents on Implementation of the Regulation

Emergency Regulations Supporting Documents

Public Workshop and Workgroup

Information in this section pertains to the rulemaking process for the emergency regulation that went into effect on May 18, 2015.