California’s Water Conservation Measures

In response to California’s drought, the state’s governor has announced unprecedented measures to mitigate the problem:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered sweeping and unprecedented measures to save water in California. A survey that day found the snowpack, which supplies a third of the state’s water, almost completely vanished.

“We’re in a new era; the idea of your nice little green grass getting water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past,” Brown said, standing on a brown field that would normally be covered in snow that melts its way into taps.

The governor’s order calls for cities and towns to cut water use by 25 percent, but many Californians like Whitman aren’t seeing a difference in their day-to-day routines or a hit to their wallets because of the drought.


He signed an executive order ordering officials to impose statewide mandatory water restrictions and expand programs intended to reshape how Californians use water.

Cemeteries, golf courses and business headquarters must significantly cut back on watering their large landscapes. Local governments will tear out 50 million square feet of lawns for drought-tolerant plants. And customers will get money for replacing old water-sucking appliances with efficient ones under a temporary rebate program.
These initiatives tie back to a central goal of reducing urban water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels, the year before Brown declared a drought emergency. In January 2014, he asked Californians to cut water use by 20 percent, but he said they haven’t come halfway to meeting that target, prompting stronger action.
That includes directing local agencies to charge for high water use, such as extra fees for the highest water consumption. Water officials vowed to crack down on waste and illegal water diversions, acknowledging spotty enforcement of existing rules limiting outdoor water use.
The order also prohibits new homes and developments from using drinkable water for irrigation if the structures lack water-efficient drip systems. In addition, the watering of decorative grasses on public street medians is banned.

There are two steps I don’t see in Gov. Brown’s list that will need to be taken at some point or another. The first has to do with agricultural use but that will need to be taken cautiously. The state will need to start charging farmers more for water—enough to incentivize conservation but not enough to put the farmers out of business.

The other step that needs to be taken has to do with zoning and restrictions on permits for new construction. That’s going to be traumatic. California’s business model has relied on more people and more houses for over a century. That needs to come to an end. The land has a finite carrying capacity.

It would have been nice if Gov. Brown had taken more of these steps the last time he was governor thirty years ago. His voluntary conservation plan showed that he understood the problem and taking these steps thirty years ago might have prevented some of the problems they have now. Still, I think the measures he’s announced have shown considerable courage.

3 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    Meant to mention in the earlier thread, if I hadn’t already, that when my city went on water restrictions, a TV crew went to the restaurant where I was eating apparently to emphasize that water pitchers could no longer be brought to the table; restaurants must serve water one glass at a time. My partners and I were in the background, drinking iced water — fat cats, or at least according to BMI overweight cats, some of us with a lemon twist, laughing and having a grand old time while the city-ordinance mandated green space in parking lots was about to die, harming the commercial appeal of an Aldi’s food store.

    This turned out to be a temporary measure, really necessitated by the power company’s need to use the water supply as a coolant lake. But in all of the discussions/debates that followed, I didn’t hear anything that made any sense than about how water was charged. If you want to use a different commercial pricing structure based upon employment, that’s fine too. Also, sprinkler systems as a matter of national standards should be equipped to (a) not run in the rain, and (b) run on more specific/varied schedules than every day.

  • Guarneri Link

    Maybe all those illegals ought to be required to bring two gallons apiece with them.

  • jan Link

    Talk about poor judgement! Dublin, CA breaking ground on a massive $35 million dollar water park at a time where there are restrictions on refilling empty pools!

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