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Water policy on the horizon: Key bills and regulations aim to reshape California’s water landscape

"Two critical actions are being contemplated by the State that will significantly impact future water supplies and impose significant restrictions on how we use water in urban settings."

I write today to alert you to two critical actions currently being contemplated by the State that will significantly impact future water supplies and impose significant restrictions on how we use water in urban settings. Both are far-reaching in their effects and, I believe, something we should all be concerned about.

Senate Bill 366 and California Water for All

Senate Bill 366 (SB 366) is a bill by Senator Anna Caballero and co-authored by Senators Richard Roth, Rosilicie Ochoa Bough, Kelly Seyarto, and Assemblymembers Blanca Rubio and Billy Essayli.  The bill would require the state Department of Water Resources to update the California Water Plan to identify ways to find and obtain 10 million acre-feet of new water supply by 2040 and develop a long-term water supply target by 2050.  The bill does not call out or approve any specific water supply projects; it requires consideration of the water needs of the environment, agriculture, and urban uses.

This bill passed the Senate unanimously and is set for hearing in the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday, June 25. You can view the bill’s text on the State’s website and learn more about it and its supporters at California Water for All at

For reference, a recent study by scientists from UC Davis, UC Merced, and UCLA found that California will have a water supply shortfall of 4.6 million acre-feet a year on the low end to 9 million acre-feet a year on the high end by 2050.

Please communicate your thoughts on this legislation to the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee in the next few days.  You can send an email through the California Legislature Portal. If you support the bill, I suggest you say you are concerned about California’s future water supply, given the fact that no significant new water infrastructure has been built at the State level in over 50 years, climate change means longer drought periods and wetter wet years, and the Colorado River is oversubscribed, and California will certainly lose some of the Colorado River water it has depended on. If you oppose the legislation, tell the Committee why. You can also write to the Committee at Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee, 1020 N Street, Room 160, Sacramento 95814.  

Proposed New State Water Resources Control Board Urban Water Use Objective

The State Water Resources Control Board proposes adopting very restrictive outdoor water conservation measures for urban users. Many inland water suppliers believe these mandates, estimated to cost over $10 Billion, are so restrictive that we will lose many street trees and most lawns.  There is a question as to whether a residential or multi-tenant facility swimming pool would comply.  The proposed regulations are projected to save 440,000-acre feet of water statewide annually.  That sounds like a lot of water, but for perspective, it is just over half the capacity of Diamond Valley Lake.  

There is a real fear that if the regulations are adopted as proposed, most residential customers will simply shut off their outdoor irrigation in the summer, resulting in the death of their landscaping, including large trees. Realistically, most of us do not have irrigation that waters trees separately from other outdoor irrigation, and we will not make an effort to hand water or pay to modify our irrigation to water just the trees.

The regulations could be modified to allow more watering in drier climates like the Inland Empire while still saving a significant amount of water. I am all for conserving, but I would rather pursue new water sources than kill off my landscape.

You can express your views to the State Water Resources Control Board by email or mail to the Clerk of the Board, State Water Resources Control Board, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

We must weigh in on these significant issues. They will affect our quality and way of life, and we can help shape them for maximum benefit.