California Gov. Brown Orders Mandatory Water Cuts For State

The drought has gotten to the point where mandatory water cuts are here for California.

KQED is reporting that California governor Jerry Brown has instituted a 31-point drought relief plan to begin reducing water usage. Standing on a spot in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which at this point is usually covered in snow but this year was brown and barren, Brown introduced his plan in an attempt to reserve what water the state has access to now.

Mandatory water cuts have become necessary because, for the past four years, snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas has been decreasing. The year 2013 was the worst accumulation on record, gaining only 25 percent of the snow needed to provide California with water. However, 2014 proved worse, gaining only 6 percent. That, coupled with the record high heats throughout the year, makes mandatory water cuts more than necessary.

Parts of Brown’s plan include a mandatory 25 percent reduction in urban water usage. This will be regulated and mandated by the State Water Resources Control Board and the more than 400 local water agencies through out the state, The plan also includes special consumer rebates for buying water-saving appliances, replacing lawns with drought-resistant landscaping, requiring new homes to use drip irrigation, and special assistance for well users whose wells are dried up.

USA Today is reporting that, historically, the Sierra Nevada snowpack provided 30 percent of the water used by homeowners, utilities, wineries, and farms from May to November. And experts are saying it’s going to get worse.

Dave Feldman, professor of policy, planning, and design at the University of California at Irvine, said about the mandatory water cuts, “The growing consensus is this may be the new norm for a few more years, so we’ll have to get used to it,” he says. “And you can’t plan for a drought during a drought.”

The mandatory water cuts have become necessary because the current steps have not been working. When the drought started to increase in severity, water agencies asked homeowners to try to reduce water usage by 20 percent. Homeowners have indeed helped to make that request a reality. Still, since Mother Nature hasn’t replenished the state’s supply, mandatory water cuts are necessary.

“What this announcement does really is communicate to the people how serious this is,” said Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources. “We’ll see more tiered pricing, more restrictions on landscaping. We need to deal with the simple uncertainty of how low the drought will last.”

“In past droughts, it was fairly easy to greatly reduce water usage because per capita it was fairly high,” Parker said. “The problem this time around is many Californians are already conserving water. So we’ll need to ratchet things up.”

[Image courtesy of Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press]