California Drought Update: Governor Directs First Ever Statewide Mandatory Water Reductions

Press Release from California Agricultural Irrigation Assocaition (CAIA)

SACRAMENTO – Following the lowest snowpack ever recorded and with no end to the California droughtin sight, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announcedactions that will save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state’s drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedentedaction,” 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.”

For more than two years, the state’s experts have been managing water resources to ensure that the state survivesthis drought and is better prepared for the nextone. Last year, the Governor proclaimed a drought state of emergency. The state has taken steps to make sure that water is available for human health and safety, growing food, fighting fires and protecting fish and wildlife. Millions have been spent helping thousands of California families most impacted by the drought pay their bills, put food on their tables and have water to drink.

The following is a summary of the executive order issued by the Governor today.

Save Water

For the first time in state history, the Governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the nextnine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.

To save more water now, the orderwill also:

  • Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;
  • Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate programto replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models;
  • Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and
  • Prohibit new homesand developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

Increase Enforcement

The Governor’s order calls 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.

Agricultural water users – which have borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off – will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state’s ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today’s order. Additionally, the Governor’s action strengthens standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submittedby large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans. These plans will help ensure that agricultural communities are prepared in case the drought extends into 2016.

Additional actions required by the orderinclude:

  • Taking action against water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state;
  • Updating standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residentialcommunities and taking action against communities that ignore these standards; and
  • Making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers.

Streamline Government Response

  • Prioritizes state review and decision-making of water infrastructure projects and requires state agencies to report to the Governor’s Office on any applicationpending for more than 90 days.
  • Streamlines permitting and review of emergency drought salinity barriers – necessary to keep freshwater supplies in upstream reservoirs for human use and habitat protection for endangered and threatened species;
  • Simplifies the review and approval process forvoluntary water transfers and emergency drinking water projects; and
  • Directs state departmentsto provide temporary relocation assistance to families who need to move from homes where domestic wells have run dry to housing with running water.

Invest in New Technologies

The order helps make California more drought resilient by:

  • Incentivizing promising new technology that will make California more water efficient through a new programadministered by the California Energy Commission.

The full textof the executive order can be found here.

For more than two years, California has been dealing with the effects of drought. To learn about all the actions the state has takento manage our water systemand cope with the impacts of the drought, visitDrought.CA.Gov.

Every Californian should take stepsto conserve water. Find out how atSaveOurWater.com.

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