Gover­nor or­ders wa­ter re­stric­tions in Cal­i­for­nia


Faced with the low­est snow level in the Sierra Ne­vada snow­pack in 65 years of record-keep­ing, Cal­i­for­nia’s gover­nor or­dered of­fi­cials to im­pose statewide manda­tory wa­ter re­stric­tions for the first time in his­tory.

Stand­ing in dry, brown grass at a site that nor­mally would be snow-cov­ered this time of year, Gov. Jerry Brown an­nounced Wed­nes­day that he had signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der re­quir­ing the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board to im­ple­ment mea­sures in cities and towns to cut the state’s over­all wa­ter us­age by 25 per­cent com­pared with 2013 lev­els.

The move will af­fect res­i­dents, busi­nesses, farm­ers and other users.

“We’re in a his­toric drought and that de­mands un­prece­dented ac­tion,” Brown said at a news con­fer- ence at Echo Sum­mit in the Sierra Ne­vada, where state wa­ter of­fi­cials found no snow on the ground for the first time in their April man­ual sur­vey of the snow­pack. “We have to pull to­gether and save wa­ter in ev­ery way we can.”

Af­ter declar­ing a drought emer­gency in Jan­uary 2014, Brown urged all Cal­i­for­ni­ans to cut wa­ter use by 20 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year. De­spite in­creas­ingly strin­gent reg­u­la­tions im­posed on lo­cal wa­ter agen­cies by the state, over­all wa­ter use has fallen by just half that amount, prompt­ing Brown to or­der the stronger ac­tion by the wa­ter board.

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der will re­quire cam­puses, golf cour­ses, ceme­ter­ies and other large land­scapes to sig­nif­i­cantly cut wa­ter use; di­rect lo­cal gov­ern­ments to re­place 50 mil­lion square feet (4.65 mil­lion sq. me­ters) of lawns with drought­tol­er­ant land­scap­ing; and cre­ate a tem­po­rary re­bate pro­gram for con­sumers who re­place old wa­ter­suck­ing ap­pli­ances with more ef­fi­cient ones.

It calls on lo­cal wa­ter agen­cies to be more ag­gres­sive in charg­ing for high wa­ter use, in­clud­ing ex­tra fees for the high­est wa­ter con­sump­tion.

The snow sur­vey on Wed­nes­day showed the statewide snow­pack is equiv­a­lent to 5 per­cent of the his­tor­i­cal av­er­age for April 1 and the low­est for that date since the state be­gan record-keep­ing in 1950.

Snow sup­plies about a third of the state’s wa­ter, and a lower snow­pack means less wa­ter in Cal­i­for­nia reser­voirs to meet de­mand in sum­mer and fall.

Crit­ics said his or­der does not go far enough to ad­dress agri­cul­ture — the big­gest wa­ter user in Cal­i­for­nia.

The or­der con­tains no wa­ter re­duc­tion tar­get for farm­ers, who have let thou­sands of acres go fal­low as the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ment slashed wa­ter de­liv­er­ies from reser­voirs. In­stead, it re­quires many agri­cul­tural wa­ter sup­pli­ers to sub­mit de­tailed drought man­age­ment plans that in­clude how much wa­ter they have and what they’re do­ing to scale back.

In the past year, the state wa­ter board has im­posed manda­tory wa­ter-sav­ing re­stric­tions on ur­ban users that pro­hibit sprin­klers run­ning off onto pave­ment, bans res­i­dents from wa­ter­ing lawns two days af­ter rain, and bars restau­rants from serv­ing wa­ter un­less cus­tomers ask for it.


This 3D com­pos­ite im­age map of the Sierra snow­pack re­leased by NASA/JPLCal­tech shows the deficit in the to­tal vol­ume of wa­ter con­tained within the Tuolumne River Basin snow­pack from April 7, 2014 to March 25.

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