Via The New York Times: California Imposes First-Ever Water Restrictions to Deal With Drought. Click through for the full report and a video. Excerpt:
PHILLIPS, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water use reductions for the first time in California’s history on Wednesday, saying the state’s four-year drought had reached near-crisis proportions after a winter that brought record-low snowfalls.
Mr. Brown, in an executive order, directed the State Water Resources Control Board to impose a 25 percent reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies, which serve 90 percent of California residents, over the coming year. The agencies will be responsible for coming up with restrictions to cut back on water use and for monitoring compliance.
State officials said the order would impose varying degrees of cutbacks on water use across the board — affecting homeowners, farms and other businesses, as well as the maintenance of cemeteries and golf courses.
While the specifics of how will this be accomplished is being left to the water agencies, it is certain that Californians across the state will have to cut back on watering gardens and lawns — which soak up a vast amount of the water this state uses every day — as well as washing cars and even taking showers.
“People should realize we are in a new era,” Mr. Brown said at a news conference here on Wednesday, standing on a patch of brown-and-green grass that would normally be thick with snow at this time of year. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”
The owners of large farms, who obtain their water from sources outside the local water agencies, will not fall under the 25 percent guideline. State officials noted that many farms had already seen a cutback in their water allocations because of the drought. In addition, the owners of large farms will be required, under the governor’s executive order, to offer detailed reports to state regulators about their water use, ideally as a way to highlight incidents of water diversion or waste.
Because of this system, state officials said, they did not expect the executive order to result — at least in the immediate future — in a hike in farm or food prices.
State officials said they were prepared to enforce punitive measures, including fines, to assure compliance, but said they were hopeful it would not be necessary.
That said, the state had trouble reaching the 20 percent reduction target that Mr. Brown set in January 2014 when he issued a voluntary reduction order as part of declaring a drought emergency. The state water board has the power to impose fines on local water suppliers that fail to meet the reduction targets set by the board over the coming weeks.