California Regulators Approve Unprecedented Water Cutbacks
OUR TOP STORY , THE STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD MADE IT OFFICIAL TUESDAY. THE GOVERNORS MANDATED 25% WATER CONSERVATION GOALS WERE FORMALLY APPROVED. THE BOARD ALSO NOTICE THAT CALIFORNIANS HAVE NOT RESPONDED WELL AS EXPECTED TO VOLUNTARY WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES. CUTTING BACK ONLY 9% SINCE LAST SUMMER. NOW THE CITIES ACROSS THE STATE UP IN ORDER TO CUT BACK SIGNIFICANTLY ON WATER USE, EVERYONE IS LIKELY TO FEEL THE PINCH BUT A NEW STUDY SHOWS THAT SOME INDUSTRIES WILL BE FEELING IT MORE THAN OTHERS. JOINING ME TO DISCUSS THE NEW STUDY ON DROUGHT ARE ERIC BRUVOLT PRESIDENT OF POLICY RESEARCH WHICH ISSUED THE REPORT. ERIK LARSON ALSO JOINS US EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY FARM BUREAU. YOUR STUDY FINDS THAT ACROSS THE BOARD WATER CONSERVATION TARGETS HAVE SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS TO SEVERAL INDUSTRIAL SECTORS IN SAN DIEGO. WHAT ARE THEY? BACK GO WHAT WE LOOKED AT -- WHAT WE LOOKED AT WAS THE AVERAGE USE PER EMPLOYEE ON AN ANNUAL BASIS AND WE IDENTIFIED ABOUT SIX INDUSTRIES THAT EMPLOYEES ABOUT 47,000 SAN DIEGO RESIDENTS THAT WE DEFINED AS WATER SENSITIVE THAT USE AT LEAST DOUBLE THE AMOUNT OF WATER. THAT MEANS THEY ARE LIKELY USING WATER INSIDE THE BUILDING RATHER THAN JUST FOR LANDSCAPING. THAT ALSO FITS TOGETHER. INDUSTRIES LIKE CONSTRUCTION CALL CRAFT BREWING AND SOFT DRINK BOTTLING INDUSTRY, LAUNDRY MATS AND THE DRY CLEANERS, AGRICULTURE, AND THOSE ARE SOME OF THE INDUSTRIES THAT ARE MOST NEGATIVELY IMPACTED AND EMPLOYEE COMBINED 47,000 PEOPLE OUT OF 1.1 MILLION WORKERS. YOU HAVE RED FLAG SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRIES. THEY ARE THE MOST IMPACTED, BUT THEY COME CLOSE. THE USE ABOUT 45% MORE THAN THE AVERAGE. WE KNOW THAT IN PAST DROUGHTS THERE HAS BEEN SIGNIFICANT CONCERN VOICED BY SOME OF THE COMPANIES PARTICULARLY IN THE SLIGHT SCIENCE INDUSTRIES IN TERMS OF THEIR NEED FOR RELIABLE AND CONSISTENT SUPPLY OF WATER. AGAIN, ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT THAT INDUSTRY IS THEY EMPLOY A LOT OF PEOPLE, OVER 120,000, AND THEIR WAGES ARE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE MEDIAN. AGRICULTURE WE COME TO MIND IMMEDIATELY, BUT WHAT'S -- WHY A CONSTRUCTION? BACK OF -- IN TERMS OF THE MATERIALS AND THEIR PROCESSES THEY NEED WATER BUT THEY ALSO NEED WATER TO DAMPEN SITES WERE THEY ARE DOING GRADING. A LOT OF THE FIRMS HAVE TAKEN STEPS TO USE RECYCLED WATER FOR THAT BUT SOME HAVE NOT. AND THAT'S A SIGNIFICANT USE OF WATER WHEN WE LOOK AT LARGE-SCALE CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS. BACK TO HOW YOU COMPILE THIS STUDY. IT'S THE WATER USE INSIDE THE BUILDING AS OPPOSED TO WATER BEING USED FOR LANDSCAPING THERE ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IT'S ACTUALLY THE WATER USED ON THE METER. WE WERE ABLE TO IDENTIFY A DATA SOURCE THAT WENT OUT AND LOOKED OUT AT OVER 8000 BUSINESSES AND LOOKED AT THEIR WATER METER USE OVER A PERIOD OF MONTHS, AND THEN TIED THAT BACK TO THE KIND OF BUSINESS THEY WERE. MOST STUDIES STOP AT THEIR COMMERCIAL OR INDUSTRIAL BUT THIS ACTUALLY TIED IT TO TYPE. THEN WE CROSS REFERENCE THAT WITH EMPLOYMENT DATA SO WE WERE ABLE TO GENERATE THIS IDEA OF HOW MUCH WATER THEY USE OVER AN ANNUAL BASIS PER EMPLOYEE. ERIK LARSON CALL YOU WERE AT YESTERDAY'S STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD MEETING WHEN THE 25% REDUCTION GOALS WERE APPROVED. WHAT DID YOU TELL THE BOARD AS A REPRESENTATIVE? WHAT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THE BOARD REMEMBERED WHEN THE GOVERNOR MADE THE DECLARATION ON APRIL 1 FOR THIS EMERGENCY THAT WAS AIMED AT URBAN WATER USE, DISCUSSED PARTICULARLY IRRIGATION, AND THAT FARMERS WERE TO BE SET ASIDE AS A CLASS THAT RECOGNIZING THEY USE WATER BUT EMERGENCY REGULATION WAS NOT DESIGNED TO PUT THE FARMERS OUT OF BUSINESS OR TO CAUSE THEM ANY UNDUE GRIEF. WE REMINDED THEM OF THAT. THERE IS A NUANCES TO THAT. ONE STEP THEY DID DO AN EXEMPTION FOR THE LARGER WATER DISTRICTS LIKE VALLEY CENTER. BUT THEY LEFT OUT WATER DISTRICTS LIKE VISTA WHERE THERE'S A LOT OF EMBEDDED URBAN AGRICULTURE. YESTERDAY WE REMINDED THEM THERE ARE FARMS IN THOSE CITIES AS WELL IN TO EXTEND THAT EXEMPTION TO THEM. HOW DID THAT GO OVER? THERE IS A FEELING AMONG SOME PEOPLE THAT MORE WATER SHOULD BE DIVERTED FROM AGRICULTURE TO URBAN NEWS. -- USE. THAT DOES HAPPEN PICK --. BUT THE AMOUNT OF WATER THAT WE USE IS AGRICULTURE IN URBAN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IS RELATIVELY SMALL. WERE DOWN TO 10% OF THE TOTAL WATER AS OPPOSED TO THE LARGER NUMBER USING 40% IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. SO IT'S A MUCH SMALLER NUMBER AND THEIR DID NOTHING TO BE THAT MUCH CONCERN. THE BOARD DID NOT EXPRESS CONCERN WITH THAT. AT THE POINT POINT OUT -- IS IMPORTANT TO POINT OUT JUST BECAUSE THE BOARD DID NOT TAKE ACTION AGAINST AGRICULTURE IT. --, THAT THE THAT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE DIDN'T ESCAPE ACTION BY LOCAL AGENCIES. EVEN THOUGH IT SEEMS THAT AGRICULTURE IN SAN DIEGO AND ACROSS CALIFORNIA'S NOT AFFECTED BY THIS PARTICULAR MANDATE, AS YOU KNOW, AGRICULTURE BASICALLY TOPS THE LIST OF THIS NEW SURVEY BY NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. SO HOW ARE SANTIAGO'S GROWERS PREPARING FOR WHATEVER CUTBACKS MY COME IN FOR THE IMPACT OF THE DROUGHT IN GENERAL? WE CREATED A PROBLEM FOR SALES. AS THE PRICE OF WATER WENT UP, THE FARMERS INVESTED HEAVILY IN TECHNOLOGY AND REDUCE THEIR WATER USE BY 50% OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS. WE'VE HAD A TREMENDOUS DROP IT AT THE SAME TIME PRODUCTION HAS GONE UP. EDUCATED TO CAPTURE AND REUSE OF WATER AND USE A REALLY GOOD TECHNOLOGY. SO NOW WE COME TO A POINT WHERE WERE IF WE HAVE TO REDUCE MORE THAN WE DO EXPECT THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, IT BECOMES, WE HAVE TO TAKE PLANS OUT OF PRODUCTION IN PRODUCE ACREAGE THAT IS IRRIGATED BECAUSE WE ARE EFFICIENT AND YOU CANNOT PUT A PORTION OF THE WATER ON ALL OF YOUR CROP AND EXPECT A RESULT. YOU HAVE TO BUT 100% OF THE NEED ON A PERCENTAGE OF YOUR CROPS. SO THEY GET A 15% CUT FOR INSTANCE, ANYBODY THE COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY WATER PROGRAM IS GOING TO HAVE TO DISCONTINUE IRRIGATING 15% OF THEIR PRODUCTION. DID YOUR STUDY DETERMINE IN ANY WAY UP THERE WOULD BE A RIPPLE EFFECT IF SOME OF THE MOST AFFECTED INDUSTRIES LIKE AGRICULTURE WERE TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACTED IF THEY WENT INTO A DECLINE IN SOME WAY? WE DID A LOOK AT THE MULTIPLIER, BUT THERE WAS THE SOUND, AND -- THERE WOULD BE SOME. IF THERE WAS 50% OF ACREAGE LAWS THAT WOULD CORRESPOND TO A 10% TO 15% DROP IN WAGES AND INCOME. THAT OF THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT OF ABOUT 0.1 SO FOR EVERY JOB LOSS IN AGRICULTURE, YOU LOSE ANOTHER JOB AS THOSE WAGES AND COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES SLOW DOWN. SO THAT'S ABOUT THE EQUATION. I THINK WHAT'S UNCLEAR, WE HAD THIS ORDER COME DOWN ON APRIL 1, WE HAD THE DECISION BY THE STATE WATER BOARD, WE'RE ALL WAITING TO SEE WHAT WILL BE THE OF LIMITATION PLAN FROM COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY IN THE RETAILERS AND TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THEY GOING TO FOCUS ON THE LOW HANGING FRUIT WHICH IS URBAN LANDSCAPING VERSUS THINK THAT WOULD DECREASE EMPLOYMENT. IS WHAT YOU'RE SAYING A REASSURANCE THAT ERIK LARSON GOT FROM THE BOARD AND THEN INDEED THESE 25% TARGET WAS DIRECTED TOWARDS OUTSIDE WATERING? ANY OF THESE OTHER INDUSTRIES THAT IT WOULD BE MOST IMPACTED WITH THAT SIGNIFICANT KIND ARE THEY GOING TO BE BASICALLY GIVEN SOMETHING OF A PASS? I THINK THE WORLD IS ALL ABOUT POLITICS. I THINK AT THIS POINT WE ARE STILL UNSURE ABOUT HOW THE RETAIL AGENCIES ARE GOING TO IMPLEMENT THIS. THEIR BALANCING ACT IS ON THE ONE HAND IT BE LOW HANGING FRUIT THAT IS ECONOMICALLY UNPRODUCTIVE USE OF WATER IS OUTDOOR IRRIGATION AND LANDSCAPING. ON THE OTHER HAND, MOST OF THE FOLKS THAT VOTE AND SHOW UP AT MEETINGS ARE THOSE THAT USE WATER THAT WE. SO WHEN THE RESIDENTS ARE TOLD WE'RE GOING TO ONE DAY A WEEK AND THEY SEE LANDSCAPING DIE OUT THERE, WAS GOING TO BE THE RESPONSE? ARE AGENCIES GOING TO BE PRESSURED INTO CUTS THAT GO ACROSS ALL OF THE VARIOUS SEGMENTS OF WATER USERS? JOINING US BY PHONE IS JOE PANETTA PRESIDENT AND CEO OF BIOCOM. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. THIS NATIONAL UNIVERSITY STUDY THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT HAS IDENTIFIED SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AS ONE OF THE INDUSTRIES THAT WILL BE MOST AFFECTED BY WATER CUTBACKS. YOU SEE THE WATER USE RESTRICTIONS TAKING SAN DIEGO LESS COMPETITIVE IN THE RESEARCH AND MANUFACTURING FIELD? LET'S FOCUS ON THE LIFE SCIENCE INDUSTRY. I THINK AT THIS POINT GOING BACK TO WE DON'T EXPECT THAT IS GOING TO HAVE AN IMPACT BECAUSE OF THE CUTBACKS THAT CAN BE MADE TO ORNAMENTAL AND LANDSCAPING WATER USE, WE HAVE RECEIVED SOME PRETTY SIGNIFICANT ASSURANCES THAT WE DID NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE IMPACT IT WILL HAVE ON PROCESS WATER WITHIN OUR INDUSTRY. HAVING SAID THAT, WITH THESE ASSURANCES AND YOU REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT LOCAL WATER AGENCIES ARE GOING TO DO, HAVE THE LIFE SCIENCES INDUSTRIES IN SAN DIEGO BEEN WORKING TO DECREASE THEIR WATER USE? THE REASON THAT BIO COMIC -- WE EXIST IS BECAUSE OF THE DROUGHT WE HAVE 25 YEARS AGO WHEN THEY CONCERN THEN WAS THAT THERE WAS THE REAL POTENTIAL THAT WE WOULD BE SEEN CUTBACKS OF UP TO 50% IN OUR ABILITY TO ACCESS THE WATER THAT WE NEEDED EVEN AS A FLEDGLING INDUSTRY AT THE TIME. SO WE PUT TOGETHER A TASK FORCE BACK THEN IT WENT TO CITY GOVERNMENT AND SAID LET'S FIND WAYS OF WE CAN WORK TOGETHER TO IMPLEMENT SOME STRATEGIES TO CUT BACK ON WATER USE AND TO DIE DIVERSIFIED -- THERE IS A FIRE ACCESS TO WATER. -- ARE -- DIVERSE OF IR ACCESS TO WATER. THESE ARE THINGS THAT WE'VE ADVOCATED FOR FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS. A NUMBER OF OUR COMPANIES HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITY TO ACCESS LIMITED PURPLE PIPE WATER OUT OF THE RECLAMATION PLANT BECAUSE ONLY ABOUT 2% OF THAT RECLAIMED WATER IS ABLE TO BE USED BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE THE PURPLE PIPE SYSTEM. SO THAT IN AND OF ITSELF WOULD HAVE GIVEN US 38,000,000 GALLONS A DAY OF WATER THAT COULD BE USED FOR LANDSCAPING AND IT'S NOT. BUT WE'VE DONE A LOT OVER THE YEARS TO ADVOCATE FOR CUTTING BACK, AND THE FACT IS THIS IS A WATER INTENSIVE INDUSTRY. BIOTECH IS ESSENTIALLY LIKE THE BREWING INDUSTRY. IT'S FERMENTATION. SO IT'S IMPORTANT TO US TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE PROCESS WATER, OTHERWISE IS INDUSTRY IN SAN DIEGO WOULD FIND ITSELF BUT A REAL DISADVANTAGE COMPETITIVELY TO THE LIFE SCIENCE INDUSTRY CLUSTERS ON THE EAST COAST THAT HAVE ACCESS TO WATER AND THE GROWING COMPETITIVENESS THAT WE ARE SEEING AROUND THE WORLD IN LIFE SCIENCE. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A CHALLENGE FOR US TO CONTINUE TO ACCESS THE TALENT AND THE COMPANIES THAT WE NEED HERE, AND THE ABILITY TO HAVE THE WATER THAT WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT WE DO IN THIS INDUSTRY HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF THAT COMPETITIVENESS. THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING THAT TO US. ONE OF THE CORE FINDINGS OF THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY STUDY IS THAT EVEN KNOW YOU IDENTIFY SOME SPECIFIC INDUSTRIES THAT WILL BE WERE COULD BE AFFECTED BY THE DROUGHT, IS UNLIKELY TO HAVE A REGIONWIDE ECONOMIC IMPACT ON EMPLOYMENT WHY IS THAT? IDENTIFY THESE WATER SENSITIVE SEGMENTS, AND I DON'T WANT TO DISCOUNT THE CHALLENGES FOR THOSE 50,000 WORKERS IN THOSE INDUSTRIES, BUT TO PUT THAT IN PERSPECTIVE, THAT'S ABOUT 4% OF REGIONAL EMPLOYMENT PROBABLY ABOUT 3% OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, NO ONE IS FORECASTING THAT ALL EMPLOYMENT WOULD GO AWAY IN THOSE WATER SENSITIVE SECTORS. SO EVEN IF THERE IS A CUT BACK, IT WOULD NOT BE A FAR-REACHING REGIONAL SIGNIFICANCE THAT IN EVERY DAY LISTENER MIGHT EXPERIENCE. WERE THERE WILL BE IMPACT IS IN SOME LOCALIZE COMMUNITIES. PLACES LIKE VALLEY CENTER THAT ARE MORE AGRICULTURE DEPENDENT. THEY COULD SEE SOME DECLINES AND NOTICE IT IN THEIR POCKETBOOKS AND COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES. I THINK THE OTHER THING THAT WE IDENTIFIED WAS THERE IS PROBABLY ABOUT 700,000 WORKERS IN SAN DIEGO WHO USE WATER PRETTY SIMILARLY TO HOW WE USE THEM IN OUR HOMES IF YOU LOOK AT HOW MUCH THEY CAN SEE THEM. SO TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH WE CAN MEET THIS REQUIREMENT THAT THE GOVERNOR HAS PUT DOWN BY REDUCING OR OUTDOOR LANDSCAPING, BUSINESSES ARE PROBABLY GOING TO RESPOND IN THE SAME WAY. AND THAT WOULD BE A LOUT -- A LOT BROWNER WITH DECLINE IN HER TO ASSETS, BUT NOT A DECLINE IN EMPLOYMENT. ANY INDUSTRIES THAT MIGHT BENEFIT FROM RESTRICTIONS? ONE OF THE THINGS, ESPECIALLY IF THE DROUGHT CONTINUES FOR ANOTHER YEAR AND A BECAUSE THE NEW NORMAL, LANDSCAPING COMPANIES WILL BE ASKED TO SWITCH OUT TURF FOR DROUGHT TOLERANT LANDSCAPING. THERE ARE GROWERS IN SAN DIEGO WHO SPECIALIZE IN CALIFORNIA NATIVES AND DROUGHT LANDSCAPING WHOM AZA UPDATE -- WHO MAY SEE AN UPTICK. THAT WILL DEPEND ON IF THIS IS A NEW NORMAL. IT'S A SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT. SOME OF THE GROWERS ARE INVESTING IN LOOKING IN THAT DIRECTION AS A FUTURE CROP YOUR SAN DIEGO? WE HAVE SOME VERY LARGE CACTUS NATIVE PLANT GROWERS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY AND THERE SEEING AN UPTICK IN DEMAND. IF FOLKS DON'T JUST LET THEIR YARD TURN BROWN, IF THEY MAKE THAT INVESTMENT THEY WILL BE BUYING PLANT MATERIAL THAT WILL BE PRODUCED AIR. HOW WOULD THIS STUDY BE USE? WE HOPE IT IS USED TO ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT CREATIVE AND SPECIFIC POLICIES IN THE COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL AREAS. SO THAT RATHER THAN APPROACHED AS A MONOLITHIC CLASS OF CUSTOMERS THAT POLICYMAKERS CAN AT LEAST ARE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THERE ARE IMPACTS AND WHAT INDUSTRIES ARE LIKELY USING WATER WITHIN THE BUILDING FOR CORE BUSINESS PROCESSES AND WHICH ONES AND HOW MUCH IS BEING USED OUTSIDE THE BUILDING FOR THOSE THINGS WHICH I KNOW PEOPLE LOVE THEIR GRASS LAWNS AND LANDSCAPING, BUT IN A TIME OF DROUGHT CALL WE CAN CUT BACK ON THAT AND STILL PRESERVE ECONOMIC VITALITY. THANK YOU BOTH VERY MUCH.
California water regulators adopted sweeping, unprecedented restrictions on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state's ongoing drought, hoping to push reluctant residents to deeper conservation.
The State Water Resources Control Board approved rules Tuesday that force cities to limit watering on public property, encourage homeowners to let their lawns die and impose mandatory water-savings targets for the hundreds of local agencies and cities that supply water to California customers.
Gov. Jerry Brown sought the more stringent regulations, arguing that voluntary conservation efforts have so far not yielded the water savings needed amid a four-year drought. He ordered water agencies to cut urban water use by 25 percent from levels in 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.
"It is better to prepare now than face much more painful cuts should it not rain in the fall," board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said Tuesday as the panel voted 5-0 to approve the new rules.
Although the rules are called mandatory, it's still unclear what punishment the state water board and local agencies will impose for those that don't meet the targets. Board officials said they expect dramatic water savings as soon as June and are willing to add restrictions and penalties for agencies that lag.
But the board lacks staff to oversee each of the hundreds of water agencies, which range dramatically in size and scope. Some local agencies that are tasked with achieving savings do not have the resources to issue tickets to those who waste water, and many others have chosen not to do so.
Despite the dire warnings, it's also still not clear that Californians have grasped the seriousness of the drought or the need for conservation. Data released by the board Tuesday showed that Californians conserved little water in March, and local officials were not aggressive in cracking down on waste.
A survey of local water departments showed water use fell less than 4 percent in March compared with the same month in 2013. Overall savings have been only about 9 percent since last summer.
Under the new rules, each city is ordered to cut water use by as much as 36 percent compared with 2013. Rancho Santa Fe, Fallbrook, Olivenhain and Valley Center were ordered to cut use 36 percent, U-T San Diego reported. The city of San Diego’s water department was ordered to cut use by 16 percent.
Some local water departments have called the proposal unrealistic and unfair, arguing that achieving steep cuts could cause higher water bills and declining property values, and dissuade projects to develop drought-proof water technology such as desalination and sewage recycling.
Representatives of San Diego-area water agencies have been especially critical of the water targets, noting that the region has slashed consumption and agencies have spent $3.5 billion to prepare for dry periods after facing severe cuts in earlier droughts.
"San Diego has lived the horror of what the state is going through right now," Mark Weston, the board chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority, told state regulators Tuesday.
After a 10-hour hearing that included more than 5 hours of public testimony, the water board again on Tuesday rejected calls to create easier targets for communities in drier areas or for cities that have been conserving since before the drought.
An economic analysis of the water board's proposal commissioned by the board estimated that private water utilities and local water departments would lose a total of about $1 billion in revenue through lost water sales if they meet the board's targets, meaning they are likely to raise prices to make up the difference.
Residents and businesses use less than a fifth of the water withdrawn from the state's surface and groundwater supplies. Farms in the state's agricultural heartland have had deliveries from government reservoir systems slashed and some have been ordered to stop diverting water that is normally available to them from streams and rivers.
Brown said last week he would push for legislation boosting authorizing fines of up to $10,000 for extreme wasters of water, but he needs legislative approval to do so, and no bill has been introduced. Another tool — tiered pricing, in which the price rises as water use goes up — is in question after a court struck down water rates designed to encourage conservation in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.