Adapting to Change: Utility Systems and Declining Flows (#4736), a white paper sponsored by California Urban Water Agencies (CUWA), investigated the negative impacts observed by utilities during recent mandatory drought restrictions in California. Specifically, it looked at drinking water distribution systems, wastewater conveyance, wastewater treatment, and production of reclaimed water.

The research team found that significant reductions in water demand and declining flows resulted in unintended consequences that ripple throughout California's interconnected urban water cycle. These observations offer a preview into the potential impact of establishing permanent indoor water use targets at or below the thresholds achieved as a result of the Governor’s emergency conservation mandate. Understanding the system-wide impacts of increased conservation will help decision makers address California’s current and future water challenges. The research team conducted a survey to inform their findings, and also gathered 8 utility case studies.

Co-funding for this project was provided by California Association of Sanitation Agencies, California Water Environment Association, WateReuse California, and the Water Research Foundation.