Victory for California’s Water Future

Governor signs water efficiency legislation, marks beginning of secure water future in California

SACRAMENTO—Today (5/31/18), Governor Brown signed legislation that puts California on a path to a more reliable and affordable water future by making conservation a way of life. Authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman and Senator Robert Herzberg, AB 1668 and SB 606 will improve water efficiency and minimize waste, while improving drought planning for communities most vulnerable to water shortages.

The legislation arrives on the heels of a recent study by UCLA climate scientists published in Nature Climate Change, which foresees “weather whiplash”—more frequent and severe swings between extreme droughts and heavy floods. To avoid a boom and bust cycle for water supply, where communities could face more emergency cuts like those imposed in 2015, this legislation will help California prepare now for dry years ahead.

Californians stepped up during the drought to meet emergency cutbacks, but water use has crept back up since the state lifted that mandate. The new water efficiency targets will help to stabilize water use at a level that makes sense for communities based on their population, climate, and land use. Local suppliers will decide the best way to meet those targets.

When compared with water supply projects like new dams, canals, and desalination plants, water efficiency is by far the most cost-effective way to meet California’s water needs.

Research from the UC Davis found that in 2015, water conservation saved more energy than utility efficiency programs, to the tune of 524,00 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of taking 111,000 cars off the road. Water treatment, distribution, heating and pumping account for about 19 percent of the state’s total electricity demand, underscoring the importance of water efficiency to help the state mitigate and manage climate change.

In addition to environmental advocates, the legislation was supported by several major companies including Levi Strauss, PepsiCo, Kohler, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the North Face, among others.

“Extreme weather patterns will intensify in the coming years, increasing the uncertainty of our most precious resource. This legislation represents Californians’ collective commitment to use water wisely, so that our communities and economy can survive—even thrive—through the turbulence of weather whiplash.”
Tracy Quinn, Director, California Water Conservation & Efficiency, NRDC

“During the drought, thousands of Californians lost running water in their homes due to wells running dry. This new law, which will help ensure we plan for future droughts and use water more reasonably, is a key part of securing all Californians’ human right to water. Water efficiency and conservation can also help minimize costs to make water affordable for low-income households.”
Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director, Community Water Center

“As one of California’s largest urban water agencies and a pioneer of water use efficiency, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) believes AB 1668 (Friedman) and SB 606 (Hertzberg) strike the right balance of preserving local control and protecting water rights while moving the state into a more resilient water future. EBMUD applauds Assembly Member Friedman and Senator Hertzberg for their foresight and determination and is proud to have contributed to this landmark success.”
Lesa McIntosh, President, EBMUD Board of Directors 

“These new laws will clearly improve California’s water future.  Environmental groups, business leaders and water agencies deserve great credit for coming together to take this important step toward making water conservation a way of life in California.”
Wade Crowfoot, CEO, Water Foundation

“These bills represent an important step forward in ensuring California’s water future by supporting the efforts of local water agencies to take the lead in managing scarce water supplies as efficiently as possible. We have an extraordinary opportunity to scale water innovation while building resilience and keeping rates affordable for all.”
Cynthia Koehler, Executive Director, WaterNow Alliance

“These bills represent an important step in advancing more efficient use of California’s precious water resources and making our communities more climate resilient.”
Heather Cooley, Research Director, Pacific Institute

“These bills will encourage a more sustainable use of water resources by encouraging better measurement and management of our water supplies. WaterSmart Software looks forward to partnering with water utilities to meet the needs of California’s growing population and economy.”
Peter Yolles, Founder, WaterSmart Software

“California’s recent epic drought taught us all that we need to conserve water where we can and use it efficiently. This thoughtful policy framework allows us to build on existing efforts and sends a reassuring signal to the business community that California is forging a path to a reliable water future.”
Kirsten James, Director of California Policy & Partnerships for Ceres

“While the winter and spring rains were a welcome relief, we must not forget that California is still in a water crisis and we can expect and must plan for hotter and drier years to come due to man-made climate change. Californians stepped up during the drought to meet emergency conservation mandates, but making efficiency a way of life and helping secure our water supply will give the business community the increased confidence it needs to keep investing in our region.”
Mike Mielke, SVP of environment and energy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

“Energy used to treat and distribute water makes up nearly a fifth of our states electricity demand. With his signature Governor Brown not only ensures Californians will be better prepared for future dry years, but that we’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow climate change, and reduce water scarcity.”
Rebecca Saltzman, Interim Executive Director, California League of Conservation Voters