Sacramento, Calif. ( Associated Press) — California Governor Gavin Newsom threatened Monday that mandatory water restrictions would go into effect if residents don’t use less water on their own, as droughts and warmer summer months draw to a close.
Newsom raised that possibility in a meeting with representatives of the major water agencies supplying the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco Bay Areas. The Democratic governor has avoided issuing sweeping, mandatory cuts in water use and instead favored giving local water agencies the power to set rules for the use of water in the cities and towns they supply.
January through March is typically when most of California’s annual rainfall and snow falls, but this year those months were the driest in at least a century. Despite calls for conservation, the state’s water use rose dramatically in March – 19 percent compared to the same month in 2020 – and now Newsom is considering changing its approach.
“Every water agency across the state needs to communicate about drought emergencies and take more aggressive action to implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in a statement.
California is in its third year of drought and nearly all areas of the state are classified as severe or extreme drought. Due to the low water level in the state’s reservoirs, the state is releasing only a limited amount of water from its own supply.
Newsom last summer called on Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent, such as taking five-minute showers and avoiding baths, running only washing machines and dishwashers at full load, and outdoor areas. Limiting the use of water for cleaning. Water used in agriculture is not counted.
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Several local water officials present at the meeting said the tone was positive and the focus was on how all agencies could work together to promote conservation.
“From our point of view it works best when local water managers deal with the local water supply situation, but we are trying to support the state, we are trying to support the governor as much as possible, Ed Stevenson, general manager said. The Alameda County Water District involved in the meeting.
The district gets about 40 per cent of its water from the state supply. Its water use has dropped by about 7 percent since Newsom called for voluntary conservation.
Board Chairman Gary Croucher said the San Diego County Water Authority, meanwhile, hasn’t required any water from the state’s supply since July partly because it relies on a mix of other sources, including a desalination plant. But he said the district still had a role to play in tackling the drought. The authority is made up of 24 water agencies, including the city of San Diego, where water use is down 1.3 percent since Newsom called for savings.
“If someone wants to say that we are free and we are fine with ourselves, they are making a fool of themselves. We really need to work together as a group of allies,” he said.
It was unclear how soon Newsom could impose the mandatory ban if protections do not improve. Spokesperson Erin Mellon said the administration would reevaluate conservation progress in just “a few weeks”. It did not offer a metric that the administration would use to measure success.
Newsom has already pushed for more protection from local water districts. The water board will vote on Tuesday whether to ban the watering of ornamental grasses and force local agencies to boost conservation efforts.
After the last drought, the state began requiring cities and other water districts to submit drought response plans, which detail six levels of protection based on water content. Newsom has asked the board to require those districts to move to “Level 2” of their plans, which considers 20 percent water deficit.
Each district can set its own rules for “Level 2” and they often include things like limiting the use of water for outdoor purposes and paying people to install more efficient equipment or landscaping that needs less water. Water is required. They should include a communication plan urging protection.
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If those restrictions are approved, they will take effect from June 10. Edward Ortiz, a spokesman for water agencies, said water agencies could be fined up to $500 per day, as could businesses or other institutions that continue to water ornamental grasses.
While visiting a water recycling plant in Los Angeles County last week, Newsom talked about better communicating the need for water conservation with the state’s 39 million people. He has included $100 million in his budget to send a dry message.
During the last drought, in 2015 former Gov. Jerry Brown issued a mandatory 25 percent cut in the state’s overall water use, and the state water board set a limit on how much each water district had to cut based on its current water use. set requirements for; Districts with high water usage were asked to make further cuts. Fines of up to $10,000 per day can be imposed if water agencies do not comply.
The state water board has imposed some statewide restrictions such as banning people from watering their lawns and spraying pavements for 48 hours after rain. People can be fined up to $500 per day for violations.
Broadly speaking, the state needs to think about how best to set up California to better deal with drought, said Dr., a water expert at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Newja Ajami, who studied conservation messages during the last drought.
“We need to have a long-term strategy to deal with these more persistently hot, dry droughts that we are experiencing and do things when we are not really in a drought,” she said.
Attendees at the meeting included representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Alameda County Water District, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Valley Water, the San Diego County Water District, and the San Diego County Water District. Authority, Association of California Water Agencies, California Urban Water Agencies and California Municipal Utilities Association. The meeting was not open to the press or the public.