California calls on residents to further reduce water usage

Sacramento, Calif. — California officials said Monday they will be required to further reduce water usage as they warn that water shortages will affect the future of the drought-affected state.

But those cuts will come from cities and local water districts, not states, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration members said, allowing local retailers to set protections in a state with nearly 40 million water demand changes. Demand is the best way.

“We live in a state with many different hydrological regions, many different water use profiles, and one size fits all doesn’t really work in California,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Jared Blumenfeld.

Blumenfeld spoke to reporters after Democrat Newsom issued an executive order outlining new actions aimed at reducing water usage after a historically dry January-March. The governor has previously called on all Californians to reduce water consumption by 15% compared to 2020, but this is not a mandate, and the total savings so far is 6%.

Much of California, like much of the western United States, is experiencing severe or extreme drought. Despite rain on both ends of the state on Monday, state officials provided a sobering assessment of the state’s water features.

“How we protect this precious resource has to be built into everything we do,” Blumenfeld said. “Our lives in California are really going to be impacted by future water shortages.”

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 availability dwindles, local water districts take more aggressive control measures to determine how and when people can use water. These providers serve more than 36 million people, or more than 90 percent of the state’s residents.

Newsom’s executive order directs the state water control board to consider requiring these local suppliers to enter the second step of its conservation plan, which assumes a 20 percent water shortage. About 140 cities and retailers already operate at this level.

Secondary restrictions vary by local area needs, but typically restrict when people can use water for outdoor purposes, or include encouraging people to install more efficient appliances or landscaping. In Sacramento, for example, Level 2 restricted watering to public spaces such as parks and cemeteries, ordered people to close decorative water features such as fountains, and increased patrols of the waters. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will limit outdoor watering, increase outreach to heavy water users, and offer more rebates and incentives for water conservation.

“As important as protecting our precious water resources, we must stress that conservation cannot be our only response to the ‘boom and bust’ water cycle that is exacerbated by climate change,” said Jim Pever of the Regional Water Authority, in In a statement, an organization representing 20 water suppliers in the Sacramento area.

He said the state needs to modernize its water system, including storing more water in underground reservoirs.

Newsom’s executive order also asks the state water agency to consider banning the watering of grasses that are used purely for ornamental purposes, such as highway dividers or office parking lots. Green areas such as baseball fields or parks may not be affected. Newsom’s office said in a news release that banning the watering of the grass could save the equivalent of more than 500,000 homes each year.

The state water agency has until May 25 to consider the action outlined by Newsom.

In addition to restricting outdoor watering and urging more protection, the order sets licensing rules for new wells to ensure they don’t overdraw the groundwater people depend on for drinking. It also simplifies the process of allowing groundwater recharge projects and protecting drought-stricken fish and wildlife, including salmon. He also directed the state water agency to step up inspections on illegal water transfers.

In non-drought years, groundwater accounts for about one-third of the state’s water supply. But during droughts, when mountain snowpacks and water availability in state reservoirs dwindle, about two-thirds of the state’s supply will be diverted to groundwater, said Wade Crawford, director of the California Department of Natural Resources.

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