Each section of the CWCB Water Conservation Plan Development Guidance Document is available in its complete form as a pdf using the links in the first column. A directory of the pdfs is also available. The linked pages in subsequent columns contain excerpts from the pdf files.

View complete introduction as a pdf file


The term “water conservation” can mean many things. In its broadest use, it encompasses any action that stretches water supplies. People often use the term water conservation to mean some or all of the following notions:

  • Water use efficiency—providing the same or better level of end-use service, e.g., toilet-flushing or showering, with less water;
  • Wise water use—“water-conserving behaviors” such as not letting the water run while brushing one’s teeth or shaving, and “water-wise choices” such as installing low-water-use plants or xeric landscaping instead of conventional turf;
  • System efficiency—improvements to a water supply and distribution system, such as operational changes or distribution system leak repairs that reduce water losses;
  • Substitution of alternative supplies—for instance, using reclaimed wastewater; and
  • Curtailment—where certain uses are foregone or reduced, e.g., prohibitions on lawn watering or car washing during a drought water emergency.

In the context of this Guidance Document, water conservation will be used broadly to mean any of the first four notions—water use efficiency, wise water use, system efficiency, and supply substitution—but not curtailment. While many people refer to water use restrictions during a drought as “water conservation,” the objective of long-term water conservation planning is not to curtail water use. Rather, it is to increase the productivity of water supply and use in order to satisfy water needs without compromising desired water services.

This document uses the term “water conservation” in the broad manner noted above, and uses “efficiency” in the narrower senses of water use efficiency and system efficiency.

Water Conservation Measures and Programs

The distinction between actions that directly save water and actions that encourage or require implementation of water-saving practices is critical to water conservation planning. For clarity, this document adopts the term “measures” to indicate actions that directly save water, and “programs” to indicate actions taken to encourage or require implementation of water-saving measures.