News Feature | August 11, 2015

Lawmakers Ponder Slapping Regs On Water Loss

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

California water utilities are pushing back against a proposal in the state legislature that would force them to track and more frequently report how much of their supply is lost before it reaches ratepayers.

The legislation, known as S.B. 555, “would require each urban retail water supplier, on or before July 1, 2017, and annually each year thereafter, to submit a completed and validated water loss audit report for the previous calendar year as prescribed by rules adopted by the Department of Water Resources on or before January 1, 2017, and updated as provided.”

The proposal is “facing opposition from two large water industry groups: The California Municipal Utilities Association and the Association of California Water Agencies,” KPCC reported. “Opponents question what it would cost to stem losses in the distribution system and how the water loss audits would be verified by experts.”

The report continued:

Jennifer Persike, a spokeswoman for the Association of California Water Agencies, said her group was in talks with committee members in hopes of changing the bill to be acceptable to her group. For example, it wants water retailers to be exempt from submitting audited reports if they achieve certain minimum level of water loss.

The bill cleared a key hurdle in July, passing out of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in a 10-to-3 vote, KPCC reported.

A study released last month attempted to measure how severe the water loss problem is in California. “Researchers with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability surveyed 10 water retailers in the Los Angeles region, and concluded that there’s no way to know how much water is lost to leakage and breaks. This is largely because California doesn’t require careful monitoring and water retailers do not invest enough to track water lost to leaks and breaks. The survey respondents were guaranteed confidentiality,” the Sierra Sun Times reported.

Co-author Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water Resources Group, highlighted the meaning of those findings.

“It appears that most retailers don’t think of minimizing leaks and breaks as a conservation responsibility, despite the cost and scarcity of water in California,” said co-author Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water Resources Group. “States such as Georgia, Washington and Texas actively encourage and train water agencies in conducting water system audits, but not California.”