Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday that the drought state of emergency would be expanded again to include all remaining counties in California, with the California State Water Resources Control Board also receiving the power to instill bans on wasteful water practices.
The state of emergency over the drought began in April for two Northern Californians counties due to extremely low reservoir levels largely stating low precipitation, a poor snowpack and meltwater year bringing in less water from the mountains, higher than average temperatures, and environmental policy of releasing mass amounts of water to keep river and stream flow continual for endangered species in the area.
By May, most of the rest of the state besides Southern California were covered under the Governor’s drought order. Newsom also warned that mandatory water reduction efforts were going to be mandatory by October if the state didn’t hit a water reduction target of 15%.
However, the state failed to reach those targets, with the State Water Resources control Board finding that water reduction efforts only led to a 1.8% decrease in usage in July and only a 5% reduction in August. With voluntary efforts having failed, and despite Southern California not being affected by the drought as much due to their unique long-term water strategies, Newsom expanded the order on Tuesday.
The Counties of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura, as well as the straggling San Francisco County, were added in, with those counties now responsible for implementing water shortage contingency plans and prepare for a possible dry 2022.
“As the western U.S. faces a potential third year of drought, it’s critical that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to save water in every way possible,” Governor Newsom said Tuesday in a statement. “With historic investments and urgent action, the state is moving to protect our communities, businesses and ecosystems from the immediate impacts of the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience to help the state meet the challenge of climate change impacts making droughts more common and more severe.”
New statewide and local bans spurred by State Water Resources Control Board action will also likely to be announced soon, with Tuesday’s proclamation heavily hinting at banning washing of sidewalks and driveways, and possibly including cars. Measures instituted during the 2010’s drought may also be brought back, such as restaurants not automatically giving water to diners, and only allowing lawn watering three days a week or less. More local initiatives, such as rebates for replacing lawns with local plants based on the region to reduce water, may also be brought back again.
According to the Governor’s office, the Save Our Water Initiative, which curtailed water use significantly during and following the 2010’s drought in California by 16%, will be seeing a resurgence as well.
Critics of emergency expansion say that Newsom Administration is largely responsible for state having low water levels
Critics of Newsom’s Tuesday announcement pointed out that his administration had largely exacerbated the drought by nearly emptying reservoirs over the past few years due to various initiatives and uses, including outflow for environmental efforts.
“Urban and rural areas alike have been hit hard by his water policies since he took office,” water engineer Shane Alexander, who has worked on numerous water projects in California and with other Western states currently affected by the drought, told the Globe on Wednesday. “Other states are bad too, and it’s partly not anyone’s fault. We have climate change mixed with low precipitation. But some of California’s water policies that put very localized environmental efforts above that of urban use, agricultural use and even other environmental uses that are just as critical.”
“Some of my jobs have reminded me of the movie Chinatown when that one water worker is looking at all the freshwater being pumped out to sea during the night to hurt farms. Well those Water Wars, which were very real, are coming back in a way. We just don’t want to admit it.”
“The entire state now being under the emergency and the State Water Board getting more power yesterday is just the next chapter in this battle.”
Water reduction mandates by the State Water Resources Control Board are expected to be announced soon, with further action by the state also likely if drought condition continue into next year.
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