California calls on residents to cut their water use even further

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians will be urged to further reduce their water use, state officials said Monday as they warned that water scarcity will shape the drought-stricken state’s future.

But those cuts would come from local cities and water districts, not the state, with members of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration saying allowing local retailers to define conservation needs is the best approach in a state. nearly 40 million people where water needs vary.

“We live in a state that has a lot of different hydrologic zones, a lot of different water use scenarios, and this one size fits all doesn’t really work in California,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. of the environment.

Blumenfeld spoke to reporters after Newsom, a Democrat, issued an executive order outlining further actions to reduce water use following a historically dry January through March. The governor previously called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 15% from 2020, but that’s not a mandate and so far the total savings stand at 6%.

Like much of the western United States, California experiences severe or extreme drought over most of its territory. Although it rained on both ends of the state on Monday, state officials offered a sobering assessment of the state’s water situation.

“How we protect this precious resource needs to be integrated into everything we do,” Blumenfeld said. “Our lives here in California are really going to be shaped by water scarcity going forward.”

About 385 cities and other local water districts must submit drought response plans to the state detailing six levels of conservation actions based on water scarcity. As water becomes less available, local water districts are adopting more aggressive controls that establish how and when people can use water. These providers serve more than 36 million people, or more than 90% of state residents.

Newsom’s executive order directs the State Water Resources Control Board to consider requiring these local providers to move to stage two of their conservation plans, which assumes a 20% water shortage. About 140 cities and retailers already operate at this level.

Tier two restrictions vary depending on the needs of the local district, but generally limit when people can use water for outdoor purposes or include incentives for people to install more efficient fixtures or landscapes. In Sacramento, for example, Tier Two limits watering in public spaces like parks and cemeteries, orders people to turn off decorative features like fountains, and increases water patrols. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity would limit outdoor watering, increase the reach of heavy water users, and offer more water conservation rebates and incentives.

“As important as conservation is to safeguarding our precious water supplies, we must stress that conservation cannot be our only response to the ‘boom and bust’ water cycles that are intensifying with climate change,” he said. said Jim Peifer of the Regional Water Authority, an organization representing 20 water suppliers in the Sacramento area, in a statement.

He said the state needs to upgrade its water supply system, including storing more supplies in underground water banks.

Newsom’s executive order also directs the state water board to consider prohibiting the watering of grass used solely for ornamental purposes, such as grass on freeway medians or in parking lots. offices. Green spaces like baseball diamonds or parks would likely not be affected. Banning the watering of this grass could save an amount of water annually equivalent to that used by more than half a million homes, Newsom’s office said in a press release.

The state water board has until May 25 to review the actions Newsom described.

Beyond limiting outdoor watering and encouraging more conservation, the ordinance puts in place permitting rules for new wells to ensure they don’t overload groundwater. that people rely on to drink. It also facilitates approval processes for projects to recharge groundwater and protect drought-suffering fish and wildlife, including salmon. And he ordered the state water board to step up inspections aimed at detecting illegal water diversions.

In drought-free years, groundwater makes up about one-third of the state’s water supply. But during droughts, when less water is available from the state’s snowpack mountains and reservoirs, the state turns to groundwater for about two-thirds of its supply, Wade Crowfoot said. secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.

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