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Procedural Requirements for Declaring Water Shortage Emergency and Adopting Water Use Restrictions

A few minutes with a Public Agency Attorney

March 05, 2014

The procedural requirements for declaring a water shortage emergency and adopting water use restrictions for most water purveyors are in California Water Code Sections 350-359.  The basic procedures include calling a public hearing, publishing a notice at least 7 days in advance, hold the public hearing and consider protests and comments, and after the public hearing the governing board may declare a water shortage emergency and must adopt water use restrictions.  Water agencies should look at the authority it may have in its enabling legislation and follow those procedural requirements too.

 

Question:  Pat, our agency provides retail water service and, with the drought conditions, we are considering declaring a water shortage emergency and adopting water use restrictions.  What procedures do we need to follow?

Answer:   That is a question most water agencies have considered, or are in the process of considering, given the historically dry conditions we are in right now.

The statutes that apply to most water purveyors are California Water Code Sections 350-359.

Your agency must follow these basic procedures:

  • Set a public hearing where customers can protest against the declaration of a water shortage emergency and can present their needs to the governing board.
  • Publish a notice of the public hearing in a newspaper within your service area at least seven days before the public hearing.
  • Hold the public hearing and consider all protests and comments presented.
  • After the public hearing, your governing body may declare a water shortage emergency, and must adopt water use regulations and restrictions that will conserve the water supply for the greatest public benefit with particular regard to domestic use, sanitation, and fire protection.

Water agencies also should look at the authority they may have in their enabling legislation.  For example, county water districts have specific statutory power to restrict the use of water in an emergency caused by drought or water shortage.  The procedural requirements are set forth in California Water Code Sections 31026-31029. 

I recommend following the procedures of all applicable statutes, without duplicating any step, in a consolidated schedule to get the benefits and authorities granted by those statutes.

Please note that I only addressed the procedures for declaring a water shortage emergency and adopting water use regulations.  There are different requirements for considering and adopting drought water rates.


Pat Miyaki has been representing local government agencies for more than 20 years as both general counsel and special counsel. He represents water districts, transportation districts, sanitary districts, cities, and joint powers agencies.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick Miyaki

415-995-5048 Direct Phone
415-995-3512 Fax

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