BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Fran Pavley, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:            SB 814          Hearing Date:    March 29,  
          |Author:    |Hill                   |           |                 |
          |Version:   |March 17, 2016                                       |
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
          |Consultant:|Dennis O'Connor                                      |
          |           |                                                     |
            Subject:  Drought:  excessive water use:  urban retail water  

          1.The California Constitution declares that:
                 The water resources of the state are to be put to  
               beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are  
                 The waste or unreasonable use or unreasonable method of  
               use of water is to be prevented.
                 The conservation of such waters is to be exercised with  
               a view to the reasonable and beneficial use of the waters  
               in the interest of the people and for the public welfare.

          1.Existing law authorizes any public entity that supplies water  
            at retail or wholesale for the benefit of persons within the  
            service area or area of jurisdiction of the public entity to,  
            by ordinance or resolution, adopt and enforce a water  
            conservation program to reduce the quantity of water used for  
            the purpose of conserving the water supplies of the public  

            Existing law further provides that a violation of a  
            requirement of a water conservation program is a misdemeanor  
            punishable by imprisonment in   a county jail for not more than  
            30 days, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.


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          2.Under the California Public Records Act, local agencies are to  
            make the name, utility usage data, and the home address of  
            utility customers available upon request IF the local agency  
            determines that the utility customer who is the subject of the  
            request has used utility services in a manner inconsistent  
            with applicable local utility usage policies.

          3.Governor Brown has made a series of emergency declarations and  
            executive orders regarding the ongoing drought.  In  
            particular, in April 2015, the Governor issued an executive  
            order that, among other things, directed the State Water  
            Resources Control Board to impose restrictions to achieve a 25  
            percent reduction in potable urban water usage through  
            February 28, 2016.  The State Board has adopted regulations  
            regarding achieving that reduction, including the  
            establishment of penalties for failure to comply.

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would:

          1.Prohibit, during a period for which the Governor has issued a  
            proclamation of a state of emergency under the California  
            Emergency Services Act based on drought conditions, excessive  
            water use by either:
             a.   A residential customer in a single-family residence, or  
             b.   A customer in a multiunit housing complex in which each  
               unit is individually metered or submetered by the water  
               supplier is prohibited.

          2.Require each urban retail water supplier to establish a method  
            to identify and restrict excessive water use, through one of  
            two options:

             a.   Establishing a rate structure that includes block tiers,  
               water budgets, penalties for prohibited uses, or rate  
               surcharges over and above base rates for excessive water  
               use by a residential water customer. 

             b.   Establishing an excessive water use ordinance, rule, or  


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               tariff condition, or amending an existing ordinance, rule,  
               or tariff condition, that includes a definition of  
               excessive water use by single-family residential customers  
               and customers in multiunit housing complexes in which each  
               unit is individually metered or submetered.
                     The ordinance could include a process to issue  
                 written warnings to a customer and perform a site audit  
                 of customer water usage prior to deeming the customer in  
                     Excessive water use would be measured in terms of  
                 either gallons or hundreds of cubic feet of water used  
                 during the urban retail water supplier's regular billing  
                     In establishing the definition of excessive use, the  
                 water supplier could consider factors that include, but  
                 are not limited to, all of the following: 
                  o         Average daily use.
                  o         Full-time occupancy of households.
                  o         Amount of landscaped land on a property.
                  o         Rate of evapotranspiration.
                  o         Seasonal weather changes.
                     A violation of an excessive use ordinance, rule, or  
                 tariff condition established pursuant to subparagraph  
                 would be an infraction punishable by a fine of up to five  
                 hundred dollars ($500) per hundred cubic feet of water,  
                 or per 748 gallons, used above the excessive water use  
                 threshold established by the urban retail water supplier  
                 in a billing cycle. 
                  o         Any fine imposed pursuant to this subparagraph  
                    would be added to the customer's water bill and is due  
                    and payable with that water bill. 
                  o         Each urban retail water supplier would be  
                    required to have a process for nonpayment of the fine,  
                    which shall be consistent with the water supplier's  
                    existing process for nonpayment of a water bill. 
                     A violation of an excessive water use ordinance,  
                 rule, or tariff condition where a residence had a  
                 demonstrable water leak and a repair was underway to  
                 eliminate that leak would be a basis for granting an  
                 appeal and shall be considered for waiver of the charges  
                 consistent with the urban retail water supplier's  
                 excessive water use ordinance and existing policies for  
                 leak adjustments. 
                     An urban retail water supplier would be required to  


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                 establish a process for the appeal of a fine imposed  
                 pursuant to this bill whereby the customer could contest  
                 the imposition of the fine for excessive water use. The  
                 water supplier would further be required to provide the  
                 customer with an opportunity to provide evidence of a  
                 bona fide reason for the excessive water use, including  
                 evidence of a water leak, a medical reason, or any other  
                 reasonable justification for the water use, as determined  
                 by the urban retail water supplier.

          1.Amend the California Public Records Act to require local  
            agencies to make the name, utility usage data, and the home  
            address of utility customers available upon request if the  
            local agency determines that a utility customer has used  
            utility services in a manner inconsistent with applicable  
            local utility usage policies, provided that the home address  
            of the customer is not disclosed without the customer's  

          According to the author, "No one should be able to buy their way  
          out of a drought. That's what SB 814 is about. Under mandated  
          water conservation targets during the worst drought in our  
          state's recorded history, most Californians are making their  
          best effort to conserve water. But, there are a number of people  
          throughout the state who appear to be using as much water as  
          they want, when they want, without any repercussions. SB 814  
          makes sure all Californians share in the efforts to conserve  
          water by requiring that urban retail water suppliers have a  
          policy in place to curb excessive water use."

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION: None Received
           Fining major water users seems to work.   For example, a recent  
          article in the LA Times documented how despite educational  
          campaigns, usage restrictions, and written notices for people  
          suspected of wasting water, Beverly Hills missed its mandatory  
          25 percent reduction in water use, triggering state fines.   
          However, once the city began penalizing wasteful water users,  
          city water usage fell by 26 percent.  


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          Why is this bill necessary?   Proponents argue that penalties  
          associated with violating water conservation programs are  
          ineffective as they are low priority crimes that are rarely  
          prosecuted.  The author's intent with the penalty language is to  
          be consistent with the penalty language in the State Board's  
          emergency regulations, which establish penalties violating Sec  
          864 (d): "?is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to five  
          hundred dollars ($500)?"

          Also, while nothing in current law appears to prohibit a water  
          agency from establishing an excessive water use ordinance, the  
          author argues that by putting this bill's language in statute,  
          it will encourage otherwise reluctant water agency to pursue  
          water wasters more vigorously.
          Is disclosure of excess water use allowed?   There seems to be  
          some uncertainty as to whether disclosure of the identity and  
          other information about individual gross water users is required  
          under the Public Records Act.  Some agencies, such as East Bay  
          Municipal Utility District, have disclosed such information  
          about their customers.  However, committee staff have heard  
          anecdotally that others interpret the current language to mean  
          that the request has to be made for a specific customer, not for  
          everyone who meets specified criteria; e.g., gross water users.   
          This issue will likely be explored more fully in the Judiciary  
          Committee (see below).

           Related Bills:  
           AB 1520 (Committee on Judiciary).  Existing law provides that  
          the Public Records Act shall not be construed to require the  
          disclosure of specified information concerning any utility  
          customers of local agencies, except for certain purposes.

          AB 1520 would, instead, provide that the act shall not be  
          construed to require the disclosure of specified information  
          concerning residential utility customers of local agencies. 

           Double-Referral.  The Rules Committee referred this bill to both  
          the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and to the  
          Committee on Judiciary. Therefore, if this bill passes this  
          committee, it will be referred to the Committee on Judiciary,  
          which will consider the issues within their jurisdiction.



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          California League of Conservation Voters
          Clean Water Action
          Sierra Club California

          None Received

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