Water Conservation

Water Shortage Emergency 1 Rescinded

On March 28, 2023, City Council adopted a Resolution rescinding the declaration of a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency and related water shortage restrictions and penalties.

As of March 14, 2023, the United States Drought Monitor showed San Luis Obispo County as no longer in a drought (as was identified in September 2021), nor abnormally dry (as was identified in February 2023). Arroyo Grande Municipal Code (AGMC) Chapter 13.07 does not contain explicit triggers or requirements for rescinding a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency. However, because the declaration of a water shortage emergency occurs when an analysis shows that water supply will be less than water demand, it follows that the emergency declaration would be rescinded when it is anticipated that water supply will be sufficient to meet water demand. The City’s current and projected water use and supply for the next two years are shown in the table below:

Current and Projected Water Supply – Acre Feet per Year (AFY)

Water Supply Source


2022 Actual Use

2023 Projected Use

2024 Projected Use

Groundwater – Santa Maria Groundwater Basin

1,323 AF

165.9 AF

100 AF

180 AF

Groundwater – Pismo  Formation

160 AF

1.8 AF

20 AF

40 AF

County of San Luis Obispo Lopez Reservoir Project

2,290 AF

1,822 AF

2,000 AF

2,100 AF


3,773 AF

1,989.7 AF

2,120 AF

2,320 AF

As of March 23, 2023, Lopez Reservoir levels are at 49,462 acre-feet and 100% of capacity. This level exceeds the 15,000 acre-feet threshold identified in the AGMC as potentially triggering a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency. Based on projections, the County has indicated that sufficient water exists in the Lopez Reservoir to meet contracted deliveries for at least 5 years.

The winter 2023 storms have also beneficially impacted the City’s groundwater supplies. The deep well index of the Northern Cities Management Area portion of the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin for the First Quarter of 2023 was completed on February 7, 2023, and is 10.58 feet above sea level, which is 3.08 feet above the 7.5 threshold value. The current deep well index is 4.70 feet higher than October 2022 and 1.22 feet higher than January 2022. 

In light of the United States Drought Monitor, the lifting of the Lake Lopez Low Reservoir Response Plan, current Lopez Reservoir levels, the recovery of the deep well index, and the additional rainfall from the March 2023 storms, City staff recommended rescinding the Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency.

Read the March 28, 2023 Staff Report, Item 12.b. - Consideration of a Resolution Rescinding the Declaration of a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency; and Make Findings that Rescinding the Declaration is Not Subject to CEQA

Water Shortage Emergency 

On October 12, 2021 City Council declared a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency. 

A Stage 1 emergency was declared as a result of the ongoing severe drought conditions, low Lopez Reservoir levels and resulting reductions in deliveries of water from Lopez Lake. In addition, reduced groundwater levels are a continuing concern causing a reduction in groundwater pumping. These conditions contributed to the need for mandatory water use restrictions and the adoption of a Stage 1 Emergency.  

This action will require all customers to reduce water usage by a certain percentage compared to the same billing period in 2020, referred to as the baseline. Customers will be notified of their baseline via letter on or before December 1, 2021. Warning letters will begin being sent with the February and March 2022 billing. 

Residential customers will be required to reduce consumption by a certain percentage based upon their billing tier: Tier 1 customers with bi-monthly usage of 0 – 9 units will not be required to reduce consumption, but cannot increase usage above their assigned baseline; Tier 2 customers with bi-monthly usage of 10 – 18 units will be required to reduce consumption by 7%; and Tier 3 customers with bi-monthly usage of 19 units or more will need to reduce usage by 14%. This structure allows residents to choose how to utilize their water rather than mandate specifically how reductions are achieved. Commercial/Institutional customers with separate irrigation meter accounts will have to reduce water use by 25%.   

Mandatory financial penalties will be levied on all water users who fail to reduce consumption in the percentages required, starting with a written notice of violation and increasing incrementally to a $200 fine. There will be an option to attend ‘Water School’ in lieu of paying the first financial penalty of $50. This option is only available once for the $50 fee, whereas additional financial penalties must be paid in full. 

Declaration of a Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency and the required reductions in water use will help preserve the limited water supply resources available to the City. Based on the current conditions and concerns regarding the anticipated prolonged drought, the City Council is implementing reductions in water usage which are necessary and appropriate to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public of the City of Arroyo Grande. 

The City of Arroyo Grande strongly encourages its residents and businesses to continue to make water conservation an important way of life. The City continues to offer several water conservation incentive programs including the Plumbing Retrofit Program that provides low-flow toilets and showerheads at no charge for home built prior to 1982. Financial rebates are also available for water efficient washing machines, commercial dishwashers and greywater systems.

For more information about the City's plumbing retrofit program, call 805-473-5485 and for information about the rebate programs, call 805-473-5464.

Baseline Adjustments 

For unusual circumstances, Arroyo Grande Municipal Code Section 13.07.070 contains procedures for adjustments of a customer's baseline. In order to be eligible for a baseline adjustment, customers must complete a Self Water Audit as well as the Baseline Adjustment Request Form. Please send the completed forms to Shane Taylor, Utilities Manager, by email at staylor@arroyogrande.org or by mail at 300 East Branch Street, Arroyo Grande, CA, 93420. For questions, please call (805) 473-5464.