Water warning issued
If conservation efforts don’t improve, Californians could face mandatory restrictions
Gov. Gavin Newsom met with leaders of the state’s largest urban water suppliers Monday and implored them to step up efforts to get people to reduce water use as California’s drought continues to worsen. He warned that if conservation efforts don’t improve this summer, the state could be forced to impose mandatory water restrictions throughout the state.
Ten months ago, Newsom called for Californians to voluntarily cut water use 15%, but the state remains far from that goal.
The latest conservation figures have been especially poor. Water use in cities and towns increased by nearly 19% during March, an especially warm and dry month. Compared with a 2020 baseline, statewide cumulative water savings since July have amounted to just 3.7%.
“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in a statement. “Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count.”
For part of the 2012-16 drought, thenGov. Jerry Brown ordered a mandatory 25% reduction in urban water use. Many Californians responded by cutting back and taking steps such as converting lawns to drought-tolerant plants.
But after the drought, local water agencies told state officials they preferred an approach that allowed for greater flexibility and would be more tailored to their local situations. Newsom has favored this locally driven approach.
But the governor’s office said in a statement that Newsom “voiced concerns today given recent conservation levels around the state.”
“Governor Newsom warned that if this localized approach to conservation does not result in a significant reduction in water use statewide this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory
restrictions,” his office said. “The governor will reconvene these same agencies in the next two months to provide an update.”
Officials who attended the meeting at the California Natural Resources Agency in Sacramento included leaders of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, East Bay Municipal Utility District and other large water suppliers.
On Tuesday, at the governor’s direction, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on a statewide ban on watering of “nonfunctional” turf on commercial, industrial and institutional properties, as well as regulations requiring local agencies to implement water-use restrictions.
Currently, local water agencies have implemented restrictions on about half of California’s population.