Statewide Water Restrictions Hit California

There was talk of the California’s Great Drought being mitigated by somewhat higher rainfall and higher reservoir levels (at least in some locations). But we’re seeing nothing but disaster in the potential for water from snowpack melting, and that’s what has apparently convinced Gov. Jerry Brown to initiate California’s first statewide mandatory water use restrictions. Here’s a report from the LA Times‘ Chris Megerian and Matt Stevens:

Gov. Jerry Brown, standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada that is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of year, on Wednesday announced the first mandatory water restrictions in California history.

“It’s a different world,” he said. “We have to act differently.”

Brown was on hand Wednesday as state officials took stock of historically abysmal levels of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada amid the state’s grinding drought.

Brown ordered the California Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory restrictions to reduce water usage by 25%. The water savings are expected to amount to 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months.

The measures authorized by Brown’s order heavily focus on landscape watering, though it also gets into areas where even consumers and businesses with rock landscapes could feel pain:

–Require golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscaped spaces to reduce water consumption.

–Replace 50 million square feet of lawn statewide with drought-tolerant landscaping as part of a partnership with local governments.

–Create a statewide rebate program to replace old appliances with more water- and energy-efficient ones.

–Require new homes to have water-efficient drip irrigation if developers want to use potable water for landscaping.

–Ban the watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

–Call on water agencies to implement new pricing models that discourage excessive water use.

–Require agricultural to report more water usage information to the state so that regulators can better find waste and improper activities.

–Create a mechanism to enforce requirements that water districts report usage numbers to the state.

Along with the water use restrictions, Brown just signed a billion dollar plan to promote water supplies and to address some of the environmental consequences of the drought. People living in my area may note state funding for desalinization and water recycling, since the Monterey Peninsula is about to take on a vastly expensive water supply project relying heavily on both.

In any event, the Great Drought’s officially no longer just for farmers or other heavy users of water. It’ll be hitting just about everybody.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.