ACWA Call to Action to Preserve Local Control Over Long-Term Water Conservation and Management Strategies

Action Needed to Preserve Local Control Over Long-Term Water Conservation and Management Strategies

ACWA Members Urged to Weigh in With Water Community’s Vision

In recent weeks, the State Water Resources Control Board staff has indicated interest in pursuing permanent conservation regulations in the near future that could affect the ability of local agencies to determine appropriate water management strategies at the local level. ACWA strongly believes that any long-term policy for California should recognize investments in drought-resilience, emphasize ongoing water-use efficiency, and leave management discretion to local water agencies.

In anticipation of ongoing advocacy with the Brown Administration and possible state legislation on this issue, ACWA has prepared a number of resources and suggested steps to advance the water community’s vision for a highly efficient and resilient water future for California and counter any proposals that would limit local decision making.

ACWA strongly encourages member agencies to adopt a sample resolution developed for this purpose and take other recommended steps as soon as possible to elevate this important public policy issue and ensure our voice is heard.

Though nothing official has been announced, State Water Board staff has indicated the long-term regulatory approach could be discussed at the May 3 meeting of the State Water Board.

On Feb. 2, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency conservation regulation that will extend mandatory urban conservation through October 2016. The action extends the mandatory conservation requirements that have been in place since the State Water Board’s original emergency regulation took effect on June 1, 2015 as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 1 executive order on the drought.

The recently extended regulation provides for some limited adjustments (e.g., for climate and population growth) to conservation standards assigned to individual urban water suppliers but continues to rely almost exclusively on mandatory urban water conservation determined by the State Water Board.

Since the 1990s, local water agencies have proactively invested close to $20 billion in drought-resilient strategies and tools that have added nearly 5 million acre-feet of “new” local and regional water supply across the state. These farsighted investments were supported by the public and have largely shielded California’s overall economy from the worst impacts of the drought. Yet, the State Water Board’s emergency approach largely overlooks the value of both water supply and water efficiency tools made possible by more than 25 years of local investments. The concern is that this approach could extend to longer term, permanent regulations.

As we have done in other important public policy debates, ACWA believes it is important for the water community to lead by outlining an affirmative policy vision around long-term conservation that preserves local authority and promotes high water use efficiency performance and accountability.

To this end, we are asking ACWA members to weigh in with visible support for a long-term policy vision that demands high levels of water use efficiency, promotes innovation in developing water shortage contingency plans, requires high levels of accountability at local water agencies, and preserves local decision-making authority over water management. We also must make it clear that long-term policy is most appropriately developed and administered by the California Department of Water Resources, which already is working with ACWA and local water agencies to lead implementation and refinement of the 20X2020 process – authorized by the Legislature in 2009 – that calls on urban water suppliers to reduce water use by 20% by 2020. Many local agencies already have achieved efficiencies that far exceed that goal.

Take Action Now

ACWA recommends that water agencies take the following steps:

1.  Adopt a Board Resolution: Have your agency’s board of directors adopt a resolution affirmatively supporting a long-term policy that recognizes water supply resilience, emphasizes efficiency and preserves local decision-making authority over water management. A sample resolution has been developed for your use. Please send copies of your adopted resolution to

2.  Send letters to legislators and key leaders: ACWA has prepared a sample letter that can be sent to your legislators and community leaders advocating for this approach. We also encourage you to meet with your legislators to ensure they understand the local investments already made and the public’s level of support for them. Again, please send copies of your letters to

3.  Educate your customers: ACWA has prepared outreach tools on the importance of drought-resilience and the value of water supply and water efficient investments.

4.  Be ready to respond further: ACWA is actively engaged in the policy discussion on this topic and is currently working with a coalition of other statewide organizations to develop a framework for a long-term efficient and resilient water policy for California. ACWA members should be prepared to quickly respond (within 48 hours, weekends included) to additional alerts, especially in the event that a budget trailer bill addressing this topic emerges in the coming weeks or later this summer.

A complete member toolkit with these and additional resources is available here on ACWA’s website. Member login is required to access the toolkit.


Members with questions about ACWA’s long-term water management strategy for California should contact ACWA Special Projects Manager Dave Bolland<> at (916) 441-4545.

Members with questions about recommended outreach activities should contact ACWA Director of Communications Lisa Lien-Mager<> at (916) 441-4545.

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