Yesterday — after two years of analysis, lobbying and debate between water suppliers, environmental groups, state officials and legislators — Governor Brown signed two bills into law that establish permanent water use restrictions throughout California.
The new laws require Helix and other urban water suppliers to set and comply with annual water use targets — water budgets — based on three factors:
- An allowance for customers of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor water use
- A yet-to-be determined allowance for customers for outdoor water use
- A cap on water distribution system leaks
Helix customers should note that their water use may already be 55 gallons or less per person per day indoors. The average daily water use of Helix customers this year — indoor and outdoor use combined — is just over 97 gallons per person.
It’s also important to note that Helix already has permanent, year-round water use efficiency measures in place, as do many Southern California water suppliers. This is not the case, however, statewide.
What concerns water suppliers is the yet-to-be determined allowance for outdoor water use. Property owners should expect something along the lines of the maximum applied water allowance (MAWA) for new development in California. The MAWA limits new residential landscapes to 55 percent of the water needed for a healthy lawn, and new non-residential landscapes to 45 percent.
Drive around La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove and you will see that many Helix customers will be okay with an outdoor water allowance, because they already installed water efficient landscapes. You’ll also see properties that emerged from five years of drought with no landscape left. But the remaining lawns and tropical backyards in our service area could be an issue.
Helix’s annual water use target will be based on the total square feet of irrigated landscape in our service area and the yet-to-be determined equivalent of the MAWA. Water suppliers that do not meet their annual target face fines of $1,000 per day.
The State Water Resources Control Board will go to work now, deciding what the outdoor water use allowance will be. Water suppliers need to establish their annual water use targets by 2022.