Water-wise strategies for the central valley
California is in the middle of an extreme drought. With more than 38 million residents depending on water reserves for personal and commercial use, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to preserve the state’s remaining resources. This guide provides an overview of California’s existing water restrictions as well as practical strategies to pursue state funding for water conservation projects.
Government Response To Extreme Drought
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be 5 feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action, therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state”
-Gov. Jerry Brown
Executive Order B-29-15 was issued on April 1, 2015 in response to California’s water crisis. The order called for a 25 percent statewide reduction in water use by Feb. 28, 2016 and enacted extensive restrictions to limit residential, commercial, and government water use. Critical restrictions include:
- Urban water suppliers may develop pricing mechanisms including but not limited to surcharges, fees, and penalties to maximize water conservation. The Water Board would encourage and facilitate the adoption of rate structures and other pricing mechanisms that promote water conservation.
- Energy-efficient appliance rebate program
- Updated standards for toilets, faucets, and outdoor landscaping
Commercial & Government
- Water efficiency measures for non-residential uses including campuses, golf courses, and cemeteries
- City parks, golf courses, schools, business parks, and campuses must implement water reduction plans for outdoor irrigation
- Mandatory reports on water use, conservation, and enforcement by local water agencies
B-29-15 also called for revisions to AB 1881, the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. The updated ordinance now bans grass yards for new commercial and government buildings and limits the amount of grass and irrigation allowed in new home construction.
Voters Enact Statewide Funding For Water Conservation Programs
As part of a statewide response to historic water shortages, California voters approved Proposition 1 in 2014 to improve regional water security. Prop 1 authorizes $7.5 billion in bonds for water supply infrastructure projects throughout the state. Of the $432 million available for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, $100 million may be used for urban water conservation programs.
In response the needs of disadvantaged communities in the Tulare Lake Basin Region, funding was approved to provide water and wastewater security for residents of Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties. $520 million is available for drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects, as well as $81 million for regional water security, climate, and drought preparedness projects. The State of California has also committed $1.5 billion to watershed restoration.
Strategies To Reduce Water Usage In The Central Valley
With Governor Brown’s goal to remove 50 million square feet of lawn area throughout California and armed with the knowledge that the average residential customer spends 60 percent of their waster use on outdoor irrigation, by replacing traditional landscaping with drought-tolerant alternatives, homeowners, businesses, and local governments can pursue state funding for their projects. Replacing turf in nonessential areas with drought-tolerant plants will save at least half of the water required for turf. Xeriscaping involves the use of hydrozones for trees, ground covering, and plants. Each hydrozone has plant material that is in the same water use category and each hydrozone is on its own irrigation circuit. These hydrozones reduce the amount of water since different water use plant types are not being watered by the same irrigation circuit that requires more water for some plants but will overwater others on the same circuit. Like traditional landscaping, xeriscaping requires thought and deliberate planning to create beautiful outdoor environments that are functional and water-efficient. Update irrigation systems, especially the controllers that include ET monitoring or rain and soil moisture sensors. Projects eligible for Prop 1 water bond funding include:
- Residential rebates are available for turf replacement with xeriscaping or artificial turf.
- Laundry to landscape gray water systems.
- Update irrigation systems to be more efficient (e.g. smart controllers, weather stations, rain sensors, etc.)
- Eliminate street-washing during construction. Contractors are required to sweep instead.
- Remove turf areas and replace them with water-efficient landscaping.
- Replace medians with drought-tolerant landscaping and hardscape.
- Change zoning to allow for smaller lots and smaller front yards.
- Require further water restrictions on irrigation during peak times.
In addition, the 2015 California Turf Replacement Incentive Program provides rebates for homeowners, businesses, and local governments who switch to drought-resistant landscaping. $10 million in funding is available for residential and EGIA contractors in the San Joaquin Valley.
Establish A Plan For Water Conservation Projects
Successful regional water conservation projects require the cooperation of residents, businesses, and local governments. Start by establishing a water conservation policy for your city, a set of guidelines that community members can commit to and follow. Educate the community to what these guidelines are. Identify special or urgent needs for the area you plan to work in, and use those requirements to develop the scope and structure of your project. Work with city engineers and landscape architects as well as your waste water management group to find available funds. Follow Prop 1, Prop 84, and California State Water Board emergency fund guidelines to submit your proposal. Above all, recognize that your commitment to regional water security will positively impact California for years to come.
As a courtesy to our clients, QK prepared a highly informative and graphic presentation that was presented to various city councils throughout the Central Valley, the California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) of Kern County, and the Central Valley Business Industry Association (BIA).