The California Chamber of Commerce has asked the State Water Resources Control Board to clarify some elements of its framework for the drought emergency mandatory regulations.
In an April 13 letter to the water board, CalChamber Policy Advocate Valerie Nera asks the board to give consideration to water conservation measures already in place when the Governor issued his April 1 executive order for a 25% reduction in water use.
As a part of the 2009 water package, urban and agricultural water suppliers were to implement measures to reduce usage 20% per capita by 2020.
To achieve those reductions, many water districts asked the business and agricultural communities to evaluate their usage and conserve where possible. Many businesses undertook a variety of improvements to reduce their water use.
The letter points out that there are situations that lead some businesses to use water based on strategies to meet health and safety regulations.
For instance, the food industry must meet stringent sanitation standards like the requirement that employees wash their hands for a set amount of time to ensure cleanliness and to limit spreading diseases, and all surfaces must be cleaned and rinsed, and utensils washed at a certain temperature. Institutional settings like hospitals, medical and dental facilities all have stringent requirements for cleanliness that use water and may not easily find alternatives.
For other businesses, reducing water usage would equate to reducing product lines and therefore would result in lost jobs. Beverage manufacturers, bottlers, coffee shops, and industries like micro chip processors and food processors, for example, would be put in jeopardy if 25% of their water usage were cut or if they had to pay significantly more for their water.
Also, a number of businesses purchase water under contract from districts for a set amount of time, commonly a year or more at a time. What happens to those contracts? What, if any, provisions will be made for the instances where the business owner does not have control over the water used, such as in apartment complexes that do not have individual meters per apartment or are in rent-controlled cities that don’t include the ability to raise rents to cover water usage?
The draft regulations were due to be issued on April 17; the board will consider them in early May.