California Governor Jerry Brown has announced statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time in state history following the lowest snowpack ever recorded. The restrictions also provide for increased enforcement actions against wasteful water users. The state will also be making investments in new technologies aimed at making California more drought resilient.
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Governor Brown. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”
Last year, the Governor proclaimed a drought state of emergency but residents failed to significantly curb their use.
The new restrictions will require the State Water Resources Control Board to implement a mandatory 25% water reduction. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.
The state will also replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments. A temporary consumer rebate program will also be put in place to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models.
Campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes will also be required to make significant cuts in water use.
Additionally, new homes and developments will also be prohibited from irrigating with potable water unless drip irrigation systems are used and ornamental grass on medians will not be allowed to be watered.
The governor has also called on local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, recognized as an effective way to realize water reductions and discourage water waste. As part of this effort water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared their data on groundwater supplies will be required to report.
Agricultural water users will be required to report more water use information to state regulators. The Executive Order also attempts to strengthen standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submitted by large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans.
In terms of technological investments, the state will incentivize new technologies that make California more water efficient through a new program administered by the California Energy Commission.