Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown issued Executive Order B-29-15, which imposes mandatory water use reductions for the first time in the history of California.
The Executive Order, issued as the state enters its fourth year of severe to exceptional drought, directs the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) to impose a 25% reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies which serve 90% of California residents, over the coming year.
The State Water Board has already issued proposed regulations based on informal comments received from the public, and in a “Fact Sheet” issued this weekend, has indicated that it is seeking additional informal comments no later than April 22, 2015, with final proposed emergency regulations to be released on April 28, 2015, which will then be considered by the State Water Board at its meetings on May 5 and 6, 2015.
Under the proposed regulations, the state’s 411 urban water districts are broken into “buckets,” with water districts with higher per-capital water use and few or no conservation programs being put into buckets with higher reduction goals, and those with lower per-capita water use and more robust conservation programs being put into buckets with lower reduction goals.
While the details of how each water district will achieve their water reduction goals is still being worked out, what is quite clear, is that life as we have come to enjoy it in the Golden State is going to have to change, at least for the foreseeable future.
The New York Times has been running a series of articles on California’s drought. In one of those articles, Kevin Starr, a historian at the University of Southern California, explains that the historic drought being experienced in California – some say the worst in 1200 years – will test the limits of the most populous state in the nation and seventh largest economy in the world. “Mother Nature didn’t intend for 40 million people to live here,” says Starr. “This is literally a culture that since the 1880s has progressively invented, invented and reinvented itself. At what point does this invention begin to hit limits?”
How California’s drought will impact construction is yet to be seen. As with most things, however, it will likely come down to the details. Here are my predictions:
Restrictions on potable water usage on construction projects, already in effect in many localities, will likely continue with harsher penalties.
More water efficient appliances and water conserving landscaping will likely be required by code and/or as a condition of project approval.
Well drilling permits will increase together with a higher demand for contractors with C-57 Well Drilling licenses.
Construction on water-specific projects such as dams and other water projects approved under the $7.5 billion water bond enacted by voters this past year, as well as other water projects, the most recent of which being discussed, is desalinization.