Important Policies to Increase Local Governments' Drought Resilience
The state responded to the drought by enacting multiple laws and regulations that are meant to increase California’s resilience to climatic extremes by creating a more sustainable water supply. Below are key policies relevant to accelerating adoption of technologies that will save water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Integrating these policies and goals into existing local government policies and plans will help cities and counties become more drought resilient and will help California achieve its aggressive goals.
With advancements in technology, recycling water has become a reliable, safe and sustainable alternative supply for the state and especially for regions that are heavily dependent on surface and imported water supplies.
Critically overdrafted sub-basins are now subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It is important to incorporate groundwater into planning if local governments are heavily dependent on groundwater, especially when surface water supplies are low.
Gray water utilizes wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, washing machines and laundry tubs for residential potable water use in landscape and toilet applications. This onsite reuse saves water and energy and reduces residents’ water bills. Because showers, sinks and laundry water comprise 50-80 percent of residential wastewater, gray water systems have a large potential market opportunity.
There are multiple regulations and rules to govern salt and nitrate management in California’s South San Joaquin Valley that are enacted to sustain and increase the region’s water quality. These policies include waste discharge requirements for milk cow dairies and the Central Valley-wide Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP).
Tulare County's Major Goals for Water Conservation and Reclaimed Water
Below are example goals and policies that are from Tulare County's General Plan 2030 Update. Tulare's General Plan Update states that the County's long-term strategy for water centers on "protecting and conserving existing water supplies and identifying new sources of water. As Tulare County continues to grow, new methods for conserving, treating and supplying water will enable County residents and farmers to continue to have an adequate supply of quality water that limits long-term impacts on groundwater." Chapter 11 identifies the following goals, polices and implementation measures to ensure sustainable management of the County's water resources:
- POLICY 1.5 Expand Use of Reclaimed Wastewater: To augment groundwater supplies and to conserve potable water for domestic purposes, the County shall seek opportunities to expand groundwater recharge efforts
- POLICY 1.6 Expand Use of Reclaimed Water: The County shall encourage the use of tertiary treated wastewater and household gray water for irrigation of agricultural lands, recreation and open space areas, and large landscaped areas as a means of reducing demand for groundwater resources.
- POLICY WR-3.1 Develop Additional Water Sources: The County shall encourage, support and, as warranted, require the identification and development of additional water sources through the expansion of water storage reservoirs, development of groundwater banking for recharge and infiltration, and promotion of water conservation programs, and support of other projects and programs that intend to increase the water sources available to the County and reduce the individual demands of urban and agricultural users.
- POLICY WR-3.5 Use Native and Drought Tolerant Landscapes: The County shall encourage the use of low water consuming, drought-tolerant and native landscaping and emphasize the importance of utilizing water conserving techniques, such as night watering, mulching and drip irrigation.
- POLICY WR-3.6 Establish a Water Use Efficiency Education Program: The County shall support educational programs targeted at reducing water consumption and enhancing groundwater recharge.
- POLICY WR-3.7 Establish a Emergency Water Conservation Plan for County-operated water systems to identify appropriate conservation policies that can be implemented during times of water shortages..."
- IM 10: The County shall incorporate provisions, including evaluating incentives, for use of reclaimed wastewater, water conserving appliances, drought tolerant landscaping, and other water conservation techniques into the County's building, zoning and subdivision ordinances. (pages 11-12 - 11-13) Supports Policies WR-1.5, WR-3.1, 3.5, 3.6.
- IM 21: The County shall maintain and implement its water efficient landscape ordinance or the Department of Water Resources Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (page 11-14). Supports Policy WR-3.5.