Code Section Group

Water Code - WAT


  ( Division 1 enacted by Stats. 1943, Ch. 368. )

CHAPTER 3. Water Shortage Emergencies [350 - 359]
  ( Chapter 3 added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140. )


The governing body of a distributor of a public water supply, whether publicly or privately owned and including a mutual water company, shall declare a water shortage emergency condition to prevail within the area served by such distributor whenever it finds and determines that the ordinary demands and requirements of water consumers cannot be satisfied without depleting the water supply of the distributor to the extent that there would be insufficient water for human consumption, sanitation, and fire protection.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 14, Sec. 1. (SB 606) Effective January 1, 2019.)


(a) Except in the event of a wildfire, deenergization event, or a breakage or failure of a dam, pump, pipeline, or conduit causing an immediate emergency, the governing body of a public water supplier shall make a declaration pursuant to Section 350 only after a public hearing at which consumers of the water supply shall have an opportunity to be heard to protest the declaration and to present their respective needs to the governing board.

(b) For purposes of this section, a “deenergization event” means a planned power outage, undertaken by an electrical corporation, as defined in Section 218 of the Public Utilities Code, to reduce the risk of wildfires caused by utility equipment, pursuant to Public Utilities Commission Resolution ESRB-8 and any decisions issued by the commission, the Wildfire Safety Division, as set forth in Section 326 of the Public Utilities Code, the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, or any other agency with authority over electrical corporations. A deenergization event commences when an electrical corporation provides notice to any state agency or political subdivision of the potential need to initiate a planned deenergization of the electrical grid, and ceases when the electrical corporation restores electrical services to all deenergized customers, or at such time as the electrical corporation cancels the deenergization event for some or all of its affected customers, and rescinds the notice of the potential need to initiate the deenergization event. A deenergization event does not include any planned outages in connection with regular utility work.

(Amended by Stats. 2021, Ch. 68, Sec. 1. (SB 708) Effective January 1, 2022.)


Notice of the time and place of hearing shall be published pursuant to Section 6061 of the Government Code at least seven days prior to the date of hearing in a newspaper printed, published, and circulated within the area in which the water supply is distributed, or if there is no such newspaper, in any newspaper printed, published, and circulated in the county in which the area is located.

(Amended by Stats. 1957, Ch. 357.)


When the governing body has so determined and declared the existence of an emergency condition of water shortage within its service area, it shall thereupon adopt such regulations and restrictions on the delivery of water and the consumption within said area of water supplied for public use as will in the sound discretion of such governing body conserve the water supply for the greatest public benefit with particular regard to domestic use, sanitation, and fire protection.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


After allocating and setting aside the amount of water which in the opinion of the governing body will be necessary to supply water needed for domestic use, sanitation, and fire protection, the regulations may establish priorities in the use of water for other purposes and provide for the allocation, distribution, and delivery of water for such other purposes, without discrimination between consumers using water for the same purpose or purposes.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


The regulations and restrictions shall thereafter be and remain in full force and effect during the period of the emergency and until the supply of water available for distribution within such area has been replenished or augmented.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


The regulations and restrictions may include the right to deny applications for new or additional service connections, and provision for their enforcement by discontinuing service to consumers wilfully violating the regulations and restrictions.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


If the regulations and restrictions on delivery and consumption of water adopted pursuant to this chapter conflict with any law establishing the rights of individual consumers to receive either specific or proportionate amounts of the water supply available for distribution within such service area, the regulations and restrictions adopted pursuant to this chapter shall prevail over the provisions of such laws relating to water rights for the duration of the period of emergency; provided, however, that any distributor of water which is subject to regulation by the State Public Utilities Commission shall before making such regulations and restrictions effective secure the approval thereof by the Public Utilities Commission.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit or prevent review by any court of competent jurisdiction of any finding or determination by a governing board of the existence of an emergency or of regulations or restrictions adopted by such board, pursuant to this chapter, on the ground that any such action is fraudulent, arbitrary, or capricious.

(Added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 140.)


(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law that requires an election for the purpose of authorizing a contract with the United States, or for incurring the obligation to repay loans from the United States, and except as otherwise limited or prohibited by the California Constitution, a public water agency, as an alternative procedure to submitting the proposal to an election, upon affirmative vote of four-fifths of the members of the governing body thereof, may apply for, accept, provide for the repayment together with interest thereon, and use funds made available by the federal government pursuant to Public Law 95-18, pursuant to any other federal act subsequently enacted during 1977 that specifically provides emergency drought relief financing, or pursuant to existing federal relief programs receiving budget augmentations in 1977 for drought assistance, and may enter into contracts that are required to obtain those federal funds pursuant to the provisions of those federal acts if the following conditions exist:

(1) The project is undertaken by a state, regional, or local governmental agency.

(2) As a result of the severe drought now existing in many parts of the state, the agency has insufficient water supply needed to meet necessary agricultural, domestic, industrial, recreational, and fish and wildlife needs within the service area or area of jurisdiction of the agency.

(3) The project will develop or conserve water before October 31, 1978, and will assist in mitigating the impacts of the drought.

(4) The agency affirms that it will comply, if applicable, with Sections 1602, 1603, and 1605 of the Fish and Game Code.

(5) The project will be completed on or before the completion date, if any, required under the federal act providing the funding, but not later than March 1, 1978.

(b) Any obligation to repay loans shall be expressly limited to revenues of the system improved by the proceeds of the contract.

(c) No application for federal funds pursuant to this section shall be made on or after March 1, 1978.

(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a public agency shall not be exempt from any provision of law that requires the submission of a proposal to an election if a petition requesting such an election signed by 10 percent of the registered voters within the public agency is presented to the governing board within 30 days following the submission of an application for federal funds.

(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a public water agency that applied for federal funds for a project before January 1, 1978, may make application to the Director of the Drought Emergency Task Force for extension of the required completion date specified in paragraph (5) of subdivision (b). Following receipt of an application for extension, the Director of the Drought Emergency Task Force may extend the required completion date specified in paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) to a date not later than September 30, 1978, if the director finds that the project has been delayed by factors not controllable by the public water agency. If the Drought Emergency Task Force is dissolved, the Director of Water Resources shall exercise the authority vested in the Director of the Drought Emergency Task Force pursuant to this section.

(f) For the purposes of this section, “public water agency” means a city, district, agency, authority, or any other political subdivision of the state, except the state, that distributes water to the inhabitants thereof, is otherwise authorized by law to enter into contracts or agreements with the federal government for a water supply or for financing facilities for a water supply, and is otherwise required by law to submit those agreements or contracts or any other project involving long-term debt to an election within that public water agency.

(Amended by Stats. 2006, Ch. 538, Sec. 668. Effective January 1, 2007.)

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