As California has experienced extreme weather patterns over the past year – from severe drought conditions to higher-than-average rainfall – we recognize our customers have concerns and questions about water conservation and various restrictions. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions. Cal Water is here to help, so if you still have questions, please contact your district and a customer service representative will be happy to speak with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
While California has received significant rainfall in 2023 so far, the state has frequently endured drought conditions over the years. It’s important that all customers use water wisely to ensure there is enough water for everyday and emergency needs, especially as drought periods get more frequent, longer, and more severe.
Currently, local and/or regional water providers determine how these reductions are achieved. If we are not able to reduce usage enough, the state could implement mandatory water-use reduction requirements. Additionally, in some cases, regional suppliers, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California can enforce reduction requirements on local providers that receive water from them.
There are penalties in place for violating water-use restrictions. The first water waste violation will result in a warning and may include the installation of a real-time water measurement device on the water meter. The second and third violations may result in $50 and $100 fines, respectively. After four violations or an egregious violation, a flow-restricting device may be installed.
While our crews often spot water-use violations, many often go unnoticed. Through our online water waste report form, we ask for photos or other key details to help determine whether a violation has indeed occurred. We will then investigate the issue and conduct any follow-up needed.
It is our preference to avoid moving to stricter levels of the WSCP by engaging with and informing customers about conserving water voluntarily. Our customers have done a great job stepping up and saving water when needed, and we are hopeful that our customers will respond to the need to reduce water use again.
Our Water Resource Sustainability Team continues to monitor supply and demand on an ongoing basis. Any future decisions will be based on our assessment of local supply and demand conditions. That said, we hope to achieve the needed reductions voluntarily so that we don’t have to implement additional restrictions for customers.
We are grateful for our customers’ conservation efforts, and we continue to ask customers to save water every day, as our changing climate will bring more dry years in the future.
We offer a variety of conservation rebates, tips, and resources to help customers save water every day. You can find out more on our Conservation page.
At this time, Cal Water districts are in Stage 1, which means customers (except for those in our Visalia and Westlake districts) are not limited to certain days of the week for outdoor watering, unless local ordinances state otherwise. However, watering is prohibited between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on all days, for all customers. For more information on Stage 1 watering restrictions, please visit our water-use restrictions page.
Our watering restrictions are in effect now. We will inform all affected customers by mail if there are any modifications to the current restrictions.
Because we are not able to observe every instance of water waste, we have an online reporting process to help us follow up on suspected waste. If you see water waste occurring, you can report it to us online at www.calwater.com/conservation/report. As part of our customer-first approach, we prefer to educate customers about prohibited uses of water before issuing penalties.
At this time, we have not implemented water budgets that require a specific reduction amount for each customer. However, we encourage all customers to continue to save water every day.
If you dispute a penalty that has been assessed, you may call your local Cal Water office to speak with a customer service representative.
Customers will receive information by mail any time there are changes to their irrigation restrictions or other drought-related modifications. We will also notify customers through other channels, but mail ensures all customers will receive the information.
We prefer to achieve greater water-use reductions by engaging and educating customers about voluntarily conserving water and avoiding water waste. Our customers have done a great job stepping up and saving water in the past, and we hope they will respond to the call to reduce water use again.
Our Water Resource Sustainability Team continues to monitor supply and demand on an ongoing basis. Any future decisions will be based on our assessment of local supply and demand conditions, but we prefer to achieve the needed reductions voluntarily, so that we don’t have to implement additional restrictions for customers. If we cannot reduce customer water use to the levels needed, we may need to implement water budgets.
Yes, during Stage 1, you may irrigate your lawn any day of the week (see special irrigation days in Visalia and Westlake), unless local ordinances state otherwise—but only before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Outdoor watering is also prohibited within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.
Hand-watering with a hose and shut-off nozzle allows for more targeted watering. While a sprinkler system may only water for a specific amount of time, it may cover a larger area that has portions that do not need to be watered and may water longer than needed. Hand-watering conserves water because users are able to target only what needs irrigation and stop when enough water has been applied.
Unless local ordinances specify time limits, we recommend watering 5-7 minutes, 2-3 times per assigned day, to maximize the benefit of irrigation.
You should stop irrigating during and for 48 hours after you receive measurable rainfall. Measurable rainfall is any amount of precipitation more than one-quarter of an inch.
Yes, we encourage you to continue watering trees, as it will take more water to replace a mature tree than to keep it alive. Hand-watering is exempt from watering day restrictions. If using an irrigation system, watering should occur on assigned irrigation days. You can water trees responsibly by checking the soil prior to watering, allowing water to soak slowly, using mulch to retain moisture, and following other guidelines provided by experts.
Yes, hand watering is allowed and exempt from irrigation day schedules. If you use a hose, ensure you use a nozzle with a shutoff valve and stay vigilant to ensure that you don’t overwater.
Customers with drip or micro-spray systems may water any day utilizing those methods. However, the use of rainwater collection barrels is only exempt for hand watering. We still recommend you water in the evening or early morning to reduce evaporation.
Runoff is when water is not absorbed by the soil or landscape to which it is applied and flows from the landscape onto other areas, such as pavement or gutters.
Yes, you may wash your car at home as long as you use a shutoff nozzle on your hose. To save more water, use a bucket with soap and water and only rinse with the hose. Alternatively, you can take your car to a car wash that utilizes recycled water.
Currently, there are no restrictions on filling pools. However, we recommend you maintain the proper chemical levels and adequate circulation time to avoid having to drain and refill your pool. Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation. Get more water-saving pool tips.
There are several other restrictions, the most common of which include:
- Water cannot be used to clean driveways or sidewalks.
- Water cannot run off onto an adjacent property.
- A shut-off nozzle must be used when washing a vehicle with a hose.
- Outdoor water structures, such as a fountain, can only operate with internal water-recirculating capabilities.
- Non-functional turf (lawns not used for recreation) may not be watered at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties, unless recycled water is used.
While there are not currently prohibited uses of water indoors, we encourage all customers to reduce their use inside their homes and businesses. By taking simple steps such as reducing shower lengths and turning off the tap while brushing teeth, shaving, and peeling vegetables, along with utilizing water-efficient toilets and washing machines, customers can substantially lower their indoor use.
There are several ways customers can reduce their water use indoors, whether turning off the tap while brushing teeth, shaving, and peeling vegetables, installing high-efficiency plumbing devices, such as faucet aerators and showerheads, replacing water-hogging toilets and washing machines, or shortening shower times. More tips are available at calwater.com/conservation/can-save-water-home/. We even have music playlists that help customers track shower time.
Installing water-efficient faucets, showers, toilets, and washing machines can have a big impact. We provide rebates for high-efficiency toilets and washing machines, and offer single-family residential customers a free conservation kit that includes:
- Two high-efficiency showerheads (1.5 gallons per minute)
- One hose nozzle with shutoff valve
- Two bathroom-faucet aerators (1.0 gallons per minute)
- Toilet leak tablets
- One kitchen-faucet aerator (1.5 gallons per minute)
Yes. We encourage the use of high-efficiency household appliances and recommend only running the dishwasher when it has a full load of dishes.
Consider investing in water-efficient appliances, replacing a lawn with drought-resistant or low-water-use plants for landscaping, or converting your irrigation system from standard sprinklers to a drip system. We have rebates for many of these improvements and offer a free conservation kit for replacing faucet aerators, showerheads, and garden hose nozzles, along with leak dye tablets to help identify toilet leaks. For more information on our rebates and ways to save, visit our Conservation page.
All leaks, breaks, or other water-related malfunctions must be repaired within five business days of notification by Cal Water. We encourage customers to make repairs sooner, if possible, to save water and money on their water bills.
While we are responsible for repairs within the distribution system, property owners are responsible for repairs to plumbing on their side of the water meter.
All multi-residential housing complex residents are responsible for reducing their personal water use and complying with all water-use restrictions. Landlords are typically responsible for repairs to the plumbing or leaks on the customer service line. If you have any questions about what you are responsible for as a tenant, please check with your landlord.
An online account is not required to take advantage of our rebates. Many of our conservation programs and rebates do have an online application process for faster processing. If you do not have access to a computer, you may contact your local Cal Water office for assistance applying for our conservation programs and rebates.
Yes, in order to qualify for our lawn-to-garden rebate, at least 50 percent of the converted area must contain low-water-use, climate-appropriate, native, and non-invasive plants. Artificial turf does not qualify. For more detailed information, please visit our Rebates page.
Yes, water restrictions may impact you outside of the home, too. For example:
- Restaurants are restricted from serving water unless a customer requests it.
- Hotels and motels must offer guests the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily.
- Commercial, industrial, and institutional properties cannot irrigate non-functional turf.
How to Save Water
Small efforts make a big difference
How drought conditions vary
Water Dos and Don’ts
What’s allowed and what’s not