CASA Update: Drought Prompts Regulatory Actions and Developments


By Jared Voskuhl, Manager of Regulatory Affairs, CASA

Jared Voskuhl, Manager of Regulatory Affairs, CASA

Jared Voskuhl, Manager of Regulatory Affairs, CASA

As the western drought has worsened over the last few months, there have been several regulatory actions in response by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

In August, due o the intensified impacts of the drought, the State Water Board ordered the curtailment of water deliveries to farmers throughout the Central Valley. In July, the State Water Board and DWR hosted a workshop on their report to the state legislature about revising the 2018 indoor residential water use standards.

While acknowledging water conservation is a way of life in California, stakeholders in the clean water community expressed concerns about the costs for mitigating the impacts of reduced flows to collection systems, treatment plants, and recycled water projects, all of which are designed to be operated with significantly greater volumes of water than those proposed in the report. The legislature likely will revise the standard in 2022, and the State Water Board is expected to adopt an associated set of regulations for water conservation objectives that same year.

Heading into autumn, the State Water Board will adopt its 2021-22 fee schedules for water quality programs and the environmental laboratory accreditation program (ELAP). As of the last staff proposal in August, the WDR fee increase would be 16.8% over the prior year, and for the NPDES fee, it would be an 11.9 % increase. ELAP fee increases are even sharper, with a proposed 24% increase to the base fee and a 67% increase to the FOA fee for very small labs. CASA will join with others to communicate our concerns with these steep increases, especially given how cumulatively significant they have been over the last few years.

The State Water Board also will adopt analytical methods for sampling micro plastics in drinking water. The detailed materials supporting the regulatory proposal are expected to be released in September and adopted shortly thereafter. This action is authorized pursuant to Senate Bill 1422 from 2018. With the identification of methods, standard operating procedures (SOPs) will be developed, for which ELAP will begin to accredit labs to run analysis on samples from public drinking water systems.

Finally, we expect toward the end of fall that the State Water Board will release the formal public draft of the re-issued waste discharge requirements for sanitary sewer systems. An informal staff draft was released earlier this year, and the clean water sector provided extensive feedback to State Water Board staff about the numerous implementation challenges and new costs for the proposed expanded requirements. We are hopeful our input will result in modifications to ease the burdens that otherwise would be imposed upon collection systems around the state.

CASA will engage and collaborate with the regulatory bodies on all of these proceedings and continue to advocate for your agencies’ interests. Please do not hesitate to contact Jared Voskuhl directly [email protected] with questions, concerns or to get connected with CASA’s regulatory workgroup.