Making Conservation a California Way of LifeNavigating the State's New Water Conservation Framework
California experienced a major five-year drought between 2010 and 2015, including the state’s single driest year on record (2013). The consecutive years of reduced precipitation levels stressed the state’s agricultural sector and urban water suppliers and brought renewed attention to water management challenges.
In January 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration released the California State Water Action Plan, a five-year roadmap outlining 10 broad actions required to more sustainably manage water resources. The first of these recommendations was to “make conservation a California way of life.”
Building upon the principles outlined in the State Water Action Plan and the administration’s 2015 emergency water conservation orders calling for a 25% across-the-board reduction in urban water use, Governor Brown signed Executive Order B-37-16 (EO) in May 2016 instructing state agencies to help citizens use water more efficiently through updated water use efficiency standards. A public stakeholder outreach and engagement strategy was launched to accomplish the EO. Two advisory groups—an Urban Group and an Agricultural Group— were created to bring together urban water suppliers and agricultural water users respectively. WaterNow Alliance Executive Director Cynthia Koehler was appointed to the Urban Advisory Group and worked alongside representatives from environment and environmental justice groups, professional associations, industry groups academia, and the public at-large to solicit feedback and inform the creation of a water conservation framework.
In April 2017, after nearly a year of development between the administration, state agencies, and the advisory groups, the EO’s final conservation framework was released with four primary objectives: using water more wisely, eliminating water waste, strengthening local drought resilience, and improving agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning. The framework’s recommendations required compromises from all stakeholder groups and generally represented areas of broad consensus.
To facilitate thoughtful dialogue among legislators, the administration, key stakeholders, and its California members, WaterNow Alliance took on the role of a neutral information-broker. WaterNow Alliance hosted five informational briefings across the state featuring speakers from the Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board and representatives from urban water utilities. WNA also produced educational materials for its California members. Educational briefings were held in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, the State Capitol in Sacramento, Oakland, and via webinar.
WaterNow Alliance will continue to monitor the implementation of the conservation framework as it progresses.