Drought Frequently Asked Questions
General drought questions
A drought is defined as a prolonged period with less-than-average amounts of rain or snow in a region. Drought severity is calculated from the amount of time that the region receives below-average precipitation. The variable climate in Southern California has become the norm. During previous times of drought, California residents have successfully used water efficiently, and have adopted a water-smart lifestyle even during normal to wet years.
Western remains in Stage 2 - Water Supply Alert. At this stage, and since conditions do not appear to be improving with respect to rainfall and snowpack in 2022, Western retail customers are being asked to continue stepping up their efforts to use less by voluntarily reducing their water use by up to 20%. This stage aligns with the state's request for a voluntary 20% reduction.
To learn more about Western's Water Shortage Contingency Plan and water shortage response actions, visit wmwd.com/DroughtActions.
On May 24, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) adopted emergency conservation regulations stating that urban water suppliers must implement actions that reflect a water shortage level of up to 20% (Level 2) by June 10, 2022, and prohibit potable irrigation of non-functional turf for commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) customers.
Western is already in Stage 2 - Water Supply Alert of its WSCP, which calls for customers to reduce water use by up to 20%. At this time, there are no mandatory water use restrictions for residential water users.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is requiring that more than 6 million people in parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties -- who rely on state water from northern California -- restrict outdoor watering to just one day per week due to rapidly worsening drought conditions. While this current mandate DOES NOT currently apply to Western customers, the announcement emphasizes the urgent and serious nature of this drought. Western relies on water imported from Northern California; however recent customer investments have created local supply and storage at Diamond Valley Lake that is getting us through for now.
Western needs customers to know that future mandatory water usage cutbacks may be required if these extreme drought conditions persist, and supplies continue to dwindle.
For more information on Western's Commercial Turf Replacement Program, visit wmwd.com/Rebates.
We need all customers to do their part to step it up and slow your water flow. Using less water now may help prevent mandatory water use restrictions later. Western is asking customers to continue voluntarily reducing water use, particularly outside, where more than 60% of residential water is used.
If the State or The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California requests future mandatory reductions, Western will look at implementing an administrative and/or drought fine policy as a tool to encourage efficient water use. Administrative fines can be issued if multiple written alerts of water waste go unanswered, and when visible water waste is identified. Visible water waste can include things like sprinkler runoff, watering down hard surfaces, etc.
We encourage you to get familiar with your water bill, learn about your water budget, and review your water usage each month. Western also has various customer support tools and programs to help you use water efficiently. Learn more at wmwd.com/SaveWater.
Now is the time to use less water. Western is asking customers to continue voluntarily reducing water use, particularly outside, where more than 60 percent of residential water is used. Through continuous, mindful choices about your water use, you can help preserve our region’s vital resource. Don’t be afraid to experiment! One way to experiment is to stress test your lawn and plants to see how much water they need. Try skipping a day, and then two days, and so on to see how little water plants actually need.
You can be part of the water-saving solution by implementing simple steps like these:
- Dial back your irrigation timers
- Fix all leaks and broken sprinklers
- Do not let water run down the street
- Wash full loads of laundry and dishes
- Respond to leaks faster
- Water landscape in the early hours and do not water after rainfall
Do your part to step it up and slow your water flow.
Western is urging customers to reduce their water use by 20%, especially outdoors, where the biggest water savings can be achieved—we all must do our part. We urge everyone to take a closer look at how they are using water inside and outside their home and take the necessary steps to use less. Focusing your efforts on outdoor water use will result in the biggest water savings.
As a leader in securing water for the region, Western is participating in a statewide coalition, Solve the Water Crisis, dedicated to demonstrating the urgency and immediate bold actions needed by California policymakers to invest in statewide water storage and conveyance capable of meeting the needs of not only Western customers but all California communities. To learn more or get involved, visit SolveTheWaterCrisis.com.
During drought, all customers are our partners in conserving water to make supplies last as long as possible. We know it can be confusing, and maybe frustrating, that development and new construction continues while you are asked to be more diligent with your water use. Western understands that many customers may have concerns about water use restrictions being put in place at a time when there is development activity occurring within the region and beyond.
First and foremost, Western is not a land-use agency. Decisions about development activities are made by respective cities, the County of Riverside and driven by State mandates to support housing and economic development goals. As a water provider, Western is charged with accommodating the development and essential water needs of the region now and into the future.
Because droughts are cyclical in nature, Western takes a long-term view of water supply conditions and availability to ensure we have the systems in place to meet both short-and-long-term water supply needs. While a moratorium on growth or the distribution of new water service meters is not currently being considered, it is a potential drought emergency response tool that could be implemented should supply conditions worsen.
Additionally, all large-scale developments are required to complete a Water Supply Assessment prior to service being approved. This Assessment helps Western better understand the long-term water supply needs of a development. When new development takes place, those homes and businesses pay connection fees to Western that fund the expansion of our system, including the development of new water supply sources to help us meet the needs associated with growth.
Thanks to increasing water efficiency standards required in the construction of new homes and businesses, Southern California uses up to 50% less water than a decade ago. Even with significant population increases, water demand is down. Together, temporary water usage cutbacks coupled with stricter efficiency requirements for newer buildings are designed to balance the needs of new construction and the jobs they support, while also continuing to deliver a sufficient volume of water to existing customers that use it wisely. Western knows that this supply shortage is a temporary condition and droughts are a reality for our region.
You should also know that Western is not satisfied with the State’s long-term water supply planning nor its inattention to investments in water supply development to the state’s system. We are actively working to change this. Please visit Solve the Water Crisis at www.solvethewatercrisis.com to learn more.
New construction is increasingly subject to more efficient water use practices implemented by local and state agencies. In areas in which there is low to moderate building, water agencies can rely on the local and state codes to help existing customers understand the requirements placed on new homes and businesses. In larger growth areas, water agencies will need to be specific in outlining long-term water management plans. Actions that agencies have committed to should be described clearly so existing customers can understand the plans are designed to allow new construction with water use efficiency in mind, while also asking existing customers to help during emergency drought situations.
During and in response to a declared Drought Emergency an HOA cannot issue a fine or assessment on a homeowner for reducing or eliminating the watering of vegetation or lawns during a state or locally declared drought emergency (Civil Code section 4735(c)).
Additionally, an HOA cannot enforce architectural or landscaping guidelines or policies that prohibit, or have the effect of prohibiting, compliance with most local water-efficient landscape ordinances. An HOA cannot require that a homeowner pressure wash the exterior of their home, vehicles, and concrete surfaces during a declared state of drought emergency (Civil Code section 4736(b)).
For businesses, the drought emergency means that sustained water efficiency and using less water outdoors is a priority. Small efforts like fixing leaks and avoiding water runoff can have a big impact when it comes to using water efficiently.
For Western's commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) customers, the State recently prohibited potable irrigation of non-functional turf. By June 16, 2022, all CII customers must stop watering turf that is solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or civic or community events. Effectively, grass is not used for any purpose other than decoration, and the only time a person walks on it might be to mow it. Western will be working directly with any impacted customers, establishing clear, Board-adopted guidelines for what areas are included in the ban, and boosting customer support programs to make it easy for customers to comply with new state-mandated watering restrictions.
To help you step it up, Western has various customer support tools to help you use water efficiently. Learn more at wmwd.com/Rebates.
Western also provides free water-saving devices for customers including showerheads, faucet aerators, indoor/outdoor water savers, and more. Check out how to get your free water-saving tools at https://westernh2odepot.com/.
Take control of your water usage with one of Western’s many rebate programs. Western partners with MWD to promote a number of regional indoor and outdoor rebate opportunities.
Together, toilets and clothes washers account for approximately 45% of the water used inside your home. Replacing your inefficient clothes washer or toilet may contribute to water savings and a reduced water bill.
• $350 for qualifying high-efficiency clothes washer
• $250 for qualifying premium high-efficiency toilet
Up to 60% of California’s entire residential water supply is applied to home landscapes, yet many landscapes are overwatered due to sprinkler controllers that are not programmed properly. Check out the rebate options below to reduce waste, usage, and homeowner costs.
• Up to $300 for qualifying weather-based irrigation controller
• $5 for each rotating sprinkler nozzle
• $25 per rain barrel and $250 per cistern
The Turf Replacement Program takes a multi-pronged approach to maximize water use and efficiency. Removing turf grass is one of the most water-conscious adjustments a homeowner can make to reduce their water usage and associated costs.
• MWD is currently offering a rebate of $2 per square foot
• Western is currently offering $3 per square foot, for the first 1000 square feet of turf removed
In total, Western customers will receive $5 per square foot, for the first 1000 square feet of turf removed, and $2 per square foot after that. Secure your rebate by visiting SoCalWaterSmart. Once you enter your Western customer information, your rebate will automatically adjust to the correct rebate amounts listed above.
Give us a call! We will send out our landscape and irrigation consultant to check your irrigation system and landscape. They will provide recommendations and savings opportunities. To schedule an appointment with our free service, call (951) 571-7104.
Western offers various resources to help our customers get started with water-wise landscaping including:
• Sustainable landscaping: conserve resources and beautify your landscape with this Landscape Style Guide.
• Western’s water-wise plant list
• Water-saving garden-friendly: a program to help you find climate-appropriate plants
- What is Western doing to make sure our region has water supplies capable of meeting demands now and into the future?
Western has made significant investments in water storage to capture surplus supplies and move from 100% to only 60% reliance on imported water from Northern California. In addition, the communities we serve have embraced a more efficient lifestyle, reducing the total water demand. While our collective actions and partnerships have lessened the severity of this drought’s immediate impacts, Western is calling on the state to take action through the Solve the Water Crisis Coalition. The Coalition, made up of water agencies throughout the State, is pushing for long-term storage and conveyance solutions to meet California’s water supply crisis now and in the future.
A drought is a prolonged period with less-than-average amounts of rain or snow in a region. Its severity is calculated by the length of time that region lacks adequate precipitation. Southern California residents are no strangers to inconsistent rain year after year and have successfully adopted water-smart lifestyles that extend beyond periods of drought.
As of July 12, 2022, Western remains in Stage 2—Water Supply Alert, which requires Western to adopt emergency drought measures to encourage customers to reduce water use by 20% voluntarily. During water shortages, Western is required to activate emergency water use regulations through its Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP). A water shortage occurs when the available water supply is insufficient to meet the normally expected customer water use. Water supply changes can happen due to water supply quality changes, climate change, drought, regional power outages, and catastrophic events (e.g., earthquakes).
As of 2022, rainfall and snowpack conditions have yet to improve. Western customers are asked to continue stepping up their efforts to use less water by voluntarily reducing their water use by up to 20%.
On May 24, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency conservation regulations stating that urban water suppliers must prohibit potable irrigation of non-functional turf for commercial, industrial and institutional customers by June 16, 2022.
Western will be working directly with any impacted customers, providing education about non-functional turf, and boosting customer support programs to make it easy for customers to comply with the new State-mandated watering restrictions. Information will be updated as it is available.
Non-Functional Turf Ban: In May, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency conservation regulations stating that urban water suppliers, like Western, must prohibit commercial, industrial and institutional (CII) customers from using drinking water for irrigation of non-functional turf beginning June 16, 2022.
What is non-functional turf? Non-functional turf is any grass that is ornamental in nature and not used for human recreational purposes, like parks, school fields or sports fields. Western will be working directly with impacted customers, establishing clear guidelines for what areas are included in the restrictions, and boosting customer support programs to assist customers in complying with the new state-mandated watering restrictions.
For businesses, the drought emergency means sustaining water efficiency and using less water outdoors is a priority. While small efforts like fixing leaks, replacing broken sprinklers and avoiding water runoff can have a positive impact, transforming your turf to water-wise landscaping will offer sustained water use efficiency.
Watering Times: CII and landscape customers watering functional turf and trees using drinking water for irrigation—including but not limited to parks, school grounds, highway medians, commercial landscaping, and golf courses—are restricted to watering between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. These customers should adjust automatic irrigation timers according to changing weather patterns and landscape requirements.
Recycled Water: Customers watering with recycled water must provide visible signage on the site that conforms with recycled water use requirements. Customers irrigating with recycled water are encouraged to develop a Water Management Plan that describes how water waste will be eliminated.
For more information, visit wmwd.com/Drought or call Western at 951.571.7104.
The State Board has defined “non-functional turf” as turf that is solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or civic or community events. Effectively, this applies to grass that is used for decoration, and the only time a person walks on it might be to mow it. This ban does not apply to residential properties, but residents are highly encouraged to reduce outdoor irrigation and convert to water-wise landscapes.
No, only the irrigation of non-functional turf in commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) sectors will be banned. The Board encourages people to reduce turf irrigation on their properties and to convert turf to water-wise landscapes.
Yes, however the State encourages people to prioritize other plants given the severity of the drought and the amount of water required for turf.
Yes, trees are important and should be irrigated appropriately. For more information on taking care of trees while saving water, see the Save Our Trees section within SaveOurWater.com.
Yes. Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and similar entities will be subject to the same prohibition on irrigating non-functional turf as other entities in the CII sectors. Because the ban on irrigating non-functional turf does not apply to the residential sector, individual homes within HOAs will not be affected. The State encourages HOAs to consult with residents on what turf is functional within the HOAs’ properties
Commercial customers using recycled water, including many city parks, golf courses, and industries that use treated wastewater for their landscape irrigation and operational needs, are exempt from the ordinance. In fact, their use of recycled water actually offsets the demand and makes more drinking water available for our customers.