Governor Signs Senator Hill’s Bill to Crack Down on Water-Guzzling Households During Droughts

South San Francisco, CA     August 29, 2016    Submitted by Leslie Guevara, Senator Hill’s Office

New Law Takes Effect January 1, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Governor Brown signed legislation by Senator Jerry Hill into law today to pull the plug on excessive water use by households that flout mandatory reductions during drought emergencies.

The provisions of Senate Bill 814, which take effect on January 1, require urban retail water suppliers to set rules for identifying and cracking down on households that consume enormous amounts of water despite restrictions that are imposed during a statewide declaration of a drought.

“This legislation ensures that every urban retail water supplier has a tool to curb excessive water use by customers,” said Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Households that guzzle water – while their neighbors and most other Californians abide by mandatory reductions – will no longer be able to hide and persist in their excess.”

SB 814 is the result of a San Mateo resident’s demand for households ignoring water use restrictions to be held accountable. Saying that excessive water use is “criminal,” the resident submitted a bill idea to Senator Hill’s “Oughta Be a Law…” contest earlier this year.

The resident, who asked that his name be withheld, expressed outrage over news reports that hundreds of household in the state were using a million gallons of water a year – with one household consuming an astounding 12 million gallons – despite restrictions that were in place at the time.

SB 814 requires all urban retail water suppliers in California to have a process in place to identify and discourage excessive residential water use during a declared statewide drought emergency in which mandatory reductions in consumption are imposed, or when there is a locally declared drought emergency. The bill allows the water suppliers to comply in one of two ways:

1. By establishing an excessive water use ordinance, rule, or tariff condition, or amending an existing ordinance, rule, or tariff condition, that includes a definition of or a procedure to identify and address excessive water use by residential customers. The water supplier will have the authority to issue warnings or conduct a site audit before assessing a fine and will have to include an appeals process and a method for collecting on non-payment of fines in the ordinance.

2. Or by establishing a rate structure, subject to applicable constitutional and statutory limitations, that includes block tiers, water budgets, or rate surcharges over and above base rates for excessive water use by a residential water customer.

California is entering its fifth year of historic drought. Although the State Water Resources Control Board, which has led the state’s drought response efforts, lifted its mandatory 25 percent water use reduction order due to water supply improvements as a result of winter storms, the U.S. Drought Monitor reports that almost 60 percent of the state continues to be in a severe drought and over 42 percent of the state is still in an extreme drought.

Governor Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January 2014. The state’s drought response has entailed imposing mandatory water use reductions on urban water suppliers and fines on water customers for water waste. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, Californians reduced their water use by 24.2 percent between June 2015 and June 2016. The state’s drought response had not included a process to curb excessive water use.


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