California Drought: Governor Makes Some Conservation Measures Permanent

With the state of California entering its fifth year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order on Monday that makes some water conservation efforts permanent, as reported by Ian Lovett on the New York Times website.

Although California had winter rains that helped fill reservoirs in parts of California, it is possible that the drought does not come to a definitive end, requiring all state residents to adapt to life without the amount of water they were accustomed to prior to the drought. Gov. Brown made this clear in a statement, reported the New York Times.

“Californians stepped up during this drought and saved more water than ever before. But now we know that drought is becoming a regular occurrence and water conservation must be a part of our everyday life.”

The state has made strides overall in reducing water consumption, since the governor put restrictions in place aimed at reducing overall water usage by 25 percent, due to the drought. Since 2013, Californians have reduced their water usage by 23.9 percent.

With Gov. Brown’s executive order, the state’s approximately 400 water districts would need to keep reporting their water use, according to a report on the Fox News website. Certain wasteful water practices are also banned under the order, including water sprinklers going into the street, washing cars without a shut-off nozzle, and cleaning driveways by washing them down with water.

The days when Californians could use as much water as they pleased, without regard to conservation, are clearly over. As Matt Stevens and Bettina Boxall report for the Los Angeles Times, Brown’s executive order will also call on regulators to decrease water use in urban areas over the long-term by devising new water-efficiency standards.

All of this taken into account regarding the California drought, however, the relatively wet winter and spring, helped by El Nino, has caused some calls for relaxation of the stricter enforcement of recent water conservation requirements. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Shasta and Oroville reservoirs in Northern California, which are the two largest in the state, are more than 90 percent full. Additionally, requests for allocation of water to Southern California have been granted at 60 percent, the highest number since 2012.

Mark Cowin, the director of the California Department of Water Resources, recently stated that the conditions this year are clearly not the same as in recent years of the drought, as quoted by the New York Times.

“Conditions have changed this year. While we’re certainly in a statewide drought, drought conditions have eased. Some local communities have seen a great easing of their drought effects this year, and will see life return more to normal. But we’re just one dry winter away from returning to where we were.”

The chairwoman of the California Water Resources Control Board, Felicia Marcus, noted that there needs to be a fundamental change in how the use of water is treated in the state over the long-term in light of the recent drought.

“Our emphasis is on conservation as a way of life in California. We’ve had the luxury of taking our precious water for granted in the past, but we do not anymore.”

The water board, however, will be considering some proposed revisions on May 18, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some local agencies would be able to set their own conservation targets, based on their ability to meet demand.

With El Nino bringing much water to Northern California recently, there have been louder calls to take into account regional differences within the state, regarding water conservation requirements related to the drought. Previous water conservation efforts and alternative supplies of water, such as desalinated seawater, were also part of the argument to ease restrictions in certain areas of California.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]