California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) is pushing for more water conservation efforts and warning that the government could force mandatory water limitations across California if efforts don’t get better over the coming months.
Almost a year ago, the governor urged Californians to reduce water utilization on their own by 15%, but as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, California is not near that benchmark. “Compared with a 2020 baseline, statewide cumulative water savings since July have amounted to just 3.7%,” the outlet noted.
According to the most recent conservation numbers by the State Water Resources Control Board, urban water usage across the state rose by almost 19% in March. The board noted that when the numbers are compared to March 2020, which was the beginning of the current drought, the average use of water in towns and cities went up by 18.9%.
In the South Coast Hydrologic Region, where over half of California’s population resides, urban water use went up 26.9%. However, some department authorities noted that the sharp rise was partly because March 2020 was wetter than normal when contrasted with March 2022.
“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in a statement. “Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count.”
During a portion of the 2012-2016 drought, former Governor Jerry Brown issued a mandated 25% cut in urban water usage.
After the drought, however, local water agencies reportedly told state authorities that they wanted a style that was more specific to their individual, localized areas. Newsom has supported this local attitude, but his office told the Times in a statement that he “voiced concerns today given recent conservation levels around the state.”
“Governor Newsom warned that if this localized approach to conservation does not result in a significant reduction in water use statewide this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions,” Newsom’s office said. “The Governor will reconvene these same agencies in the next two months to provide an update.”
On Monday, Newsom met with heads of California’s biggest urban water suppliers. Those in attendance included heads of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and other major water suppliers.
The State Water Resources Control Board is set to vote Tuesday on a ban that would apply across the state to providing water to “non-functional” turf on commercial, industrial and institutional properties, and rules mandating local agencies to execute water use limitations. If the Board’s rules are accepted, every urban location across the state will be under a local plan to cut down on water. Right now, local water agencies have placed limitations on around half of Californians.