The California State Water Resources Control Board announced mandatory water restrictions in 2022 on Tuesday, replacing the voluntary restrictions the state has had in place in the last few years.
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According to the new mandates by the board, restrictions will include not watering lawns for two days after rain, not using drinking water to clean sidewalks and driveways, having sprinklers run onto sidewalks, washing cars without having a nozzle to stop water when not in use, outdoor watering that causes runoff into the street, and other basic measures similar to initial mandates during the previous drought last decade. Trees get watering exceptions in many cases, such as median turf not being allowed to be watered while trees there can be.
Fines for not complying will run to around $500 per day, but the Board was adamant that enforcement would be more to local water districts with no specialized force being put out to monitor neighborhoods specifically. Neighbors who want to report violations also can through websites. Any fines given would likely be rare, due to warnings being given, many people already in compliance, and many neighbors unwilling to tell of violations.
Despite recent rain and snow storms across the state that have drastically alleviated drought conditions in every county, and have allowed enough water refilling reservoirs to allow hydroelectric plants to reopen, as well as the state not stopping measures such as releasing water from reservoirs for environmental purposes, regulators adopted the new mandates on Tuesday in preparation for another bad projected drought year, with February and March expected to be drier than normal.
Voluntary water-saving acts by citizens, which Gov. Gavin Newsom called on for a 15% cut in usage last year, did not come close, with state water reductions only down 6%. Other measures, such as a 0% allocation by the State Water Project, also failed to meet the water reductions needed to stave off another drought year, necessitating the mandatory measures according to the board.
“Conserving water and reducing water waste are critical and necessary habits for everyone to adopt as we adjust to these uncertainties and we build resilience to climate change, so adopting emergency regulations now just makes sense,” said California Water Board Chief Deputy Director Eric Oppenheimer on Tuesday. “We need to be prepared for continued drought. There’s not going to be like a statewide force of water cops or anything like that.”
Water experts noted on Tuesday that while the Board’s mandates would likely save water, a better plan would be to wait a few months to see what precipitation levels look like.
“California has had so many unexpected storms already this winter,” said water engineer Shane Alexander, who has worked on numerous water projects in California and with other Western states to the Globe on Tuesday. “Plus we have a lot of snowpack this year. It would probably be best to wait and see for several reasons. Or at least keep them voluntary. And we should really be looking into areas of major water loss, such as releasing reservoir water and a refocus on urban and agricultural use.”
“These mandates aren’t asking people to lose their lawns or for golf courses to stop sprinkling. They are minor things to do. But there are other areas to look at first. And with so much rainwater coming in in the last several weeks, California has gotten more time.”
Mandates are expected to go into effect starting on January 15th and will stay in place for one year unless renewed.
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