Cal Cities pushes for feasibility and flexibility in updated water regulations

Mar 20, 2024

The 15-day public comment period ends on March 27

By Melissa Sparks-Kranz, legislative affairs lobbyist (environmental quality)

Earlier today, Cal Cities and city representatives provided robust input on updated draft water efficiency regulations. The proposed regulations aim to reduce water usage in urban areas over the long term to lessen the need for mandatory water reductions during the next drought. 

The State Water Resources Control Board announced the updated regulations last week as part of a 15-day comment period. The state also released updated provisional data showing how much water each supplier will need to conserve. Cities represent about half of the nearly 400 affected urban water suppliers in the state.  

The updated regulations address many of the concerns Cal Cities initially identified by providing cities and urban suppliers flexibility to meet a complex water savings goal. Cal Cities and other stakeholders provided feedback on the water conservation package during the previous public comment period, in meetings with the State Water Board, and in working discussions.

The challenge ahead is implementation. Residential customers will need to make long-term changes to their indoor and outdoor water usage under the regulations. To achieve water savings, cities and urban suppliers will need to calculate water usage and create well-designed conservation programs that incentivize change.

What did Cal Cities advocate for?

State regulators included changes that would give local urban water suppliers two more years to come into compliance, rather than potentially being out of compliance when the regulations take effect on January 1, 2025. Overall, the new draft regulations give urban suppliers an additional five years — 2040 instead of 2035 — to create water savings programs and achieve long-term water use conservation. Suppliers need that time to ensure the programs are structured and financed for the long term.

The State Water Board also revised an alternative pathway to compliance for low-income communities that allows suppliers to develop plans that achieve 1% water savings per year. For urban suppliers that need to make a 30% or greater reduction, a similar pathway to compliance exists that achieves 2% water savings per year.

These pathways create a more feasible approach for those facing the most challenging lift. The updated regulations also recognize that recreational and park spaces, pools, and shade trees should continue to be protected.

Conserving is one of many tools in the toolbox, as California’s dramatic swings from one extreme weather event to the next grow worse under climate change. The regulations aim to reduce water usage by 500,000 acre-feet — about 1% of the state’s total water use according to a recent Legislative Analyst’s Office Report. An acre-foot is enough to serve the needs of about three families for a year in California.

What’s next?

The 15-day comment period ends on March 27. The State Water Board anticipates finalizing the regulation in August 2024. Cal Cities plans to submit written comments on the updated regulations.

Individual cities that would like to prepare written comment letters should email them to with the subject line: Comment Letter – Proposed Making Conservation a California Way of Life Regulation. Please forward a copy of your letter to Cal Cities at

To join the Cal Cities Water Working Group — or for more resources, information, and updates on the conservation regulations — please email