Unprecedented Water Cutbacks Approved in California

California officials are taking drastic measures to conserve water in light of the state’s ongoing four-year drought. In an effort to safeguard the state’s water supply, residents, governments and businesses are facing stricter limits to help with conservation efforts.

Back in May, the State Water Resources Control Board approved rules forcing cities to limit the amount of watering on public property, encouraging homeowners to stop watering their lawns altogether and imposing mandatory water-savings targets for local agencies and cities supplying water to customers in California.

California Governor Jerry Brown demanded stricter regulations, claiming that voluntary water conservation efforts have not resulted in the savings needed. He mandated that water agencies cut urban water use by 25% from levels in 2013 — the year before he declared a drought emergency.

Punishments for Violating Water Mandates Unclear

The water conservation rules are mandatory, but the punishment for violators is currently vague. Board officials said they expect to see dramatic water saving efforts by June and will add restrictions and penalties if this does not happen. However, the Board doesn’t have the staff needed to oversee the state’s hundreds of water agencies. Some of these agencies don’t even have the resources to ticket those who waste water and others simply have opted not to.

It seems that many California residents do not understand the severity of the drought or the need to conserve water. Data released in May revealed that very little water was conserved in March and local officials weren’t doing much to stop wasteful usage. A survey of local water departments revealed that water use fell less than 4% in March, compared with the same month two years earlier. In total, savings have averaged just 9% since last summer.

The new rules require cities to cut water use by up to 36%, compared with 2013 levels. Some water departments have protested the drastic cuts, claiming they could cause higher water bills, declining property values and discourage certain development projects.

Governor Brown said he would push for legislation allowing fines of up to $10,000 for extreme water wasters, but this will require legislative approval and a bill has yet to be introduced.

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