California prepares for historic mandatory cutbacks on water

Caitlin Dickson
A sprinkler waters grass in Los Angeles, California April 17, 2015. California's cities and towns would be required to cut their water usage by up to 35 percent or face steep fines under proposed new rules, the state's first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water use as the state enters its fourth year of severe drought. Communities where residential customers use more than 165 gallons of water per person per day would have to cut back by 35 percent. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Californians are going to have to start preparing for a dry summer as the dehydrated state prepares for a water crackdown.

In a somewhat controversial move, California water officials drafted a set of mandatory conservation regulations outlining varying degrees to which communities will be required to cut back on water use, ranging from 8 to 36 percent, depending on their history of water consumption.

The regulations — slated for approval in early May — are part of California’s first-ever attempt at mandatory rationing. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order requiring a 25 percent reduction in urban water use, a historic step in a series of measures aimed at conservation ahead of the state’s fourth consecutive year of drought.

“The reality is the climate is getting warmer, the weather is getting more extreme and unpredictable, and we have to become more resilient, more efficient and more innovative, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Brown said when he announced the executive order at the California snow survey.

The annual survey, held at a snow course outside Sacramento every April 1, when the snowpack is typically at its peak, traditionally uses the amount of snow on the ground as a barometer for how much water the state will have at the end of the rainy season. This April 1 was the first in 75 years that saw no snow on the course.

Under the mandate proposed Saturday, which If approved by the State Water Resources Control Board will go into effect by the end of May, it will be up to individual water agencies to ensure that the communities they serve meet their required reductions. Failure to do so could result in up to $500 a day in fines.

The cuts won’t have a tremendous affect on those communities with already low water consumption like San Francisco, which would need only an 8 percent reduction. It’s places like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills, with required reductions of 32 and 36 percent, that face a real challenge.











“I think it will be a little difficult for some people who haven’t been paying attention,” a spokesperson for California Water Services, a private utility in the Bay Area, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I think most Californians recognize that we’re in a serious drought.”

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