5 Ways Californians Will Change to Fight the Drought

Come summer, the state will be taking serious steps to protect its water supply.
(Photo: J. Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apr 18, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

With no end in sight for California’s drought, officials at the State Water Resources Control Board are working furiously to revamp their proposal to conserve.

“All Californians need to step up and act as if it won’t rain or snow much next year,” said board chairwoman Felicia Marcus during a press conference Saturday. “We know that we don’t know when [the drought] will end.”

The new proposal is a response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 1 executive order to reduce water use by 25 percent throughout the state. That’s a lot to ask for a state that has reduced water use by 9 percent between June 2014 and February of this year.

With new regulations and enforcement, this draft is only the beginning. The board will now entertain informal comments before writing another proposal draft, with a final hearing slated for early May.

There are a lot of new and old rules in this lengthy proposal, but we’ve pulled out five takeaways that would affect the lives of every Californian.

1. Suburban Makeover

While the bulk of residential usage concerns outdoor irrigation, the proposal also reinforces some past regulations, including bans on:

  • Hoses without a shutoff nozzle to wash cars
  • Watering lawns within 48 hours of measurable rainfall
  • Use of ornamental water fountains without a recirculation pump
  • Hosing down sidewalks or driveways

2. Dry Hospitality

Say good-bye to the implied glass of water when sitting down to a meal at a local restaurant. Patrons will now need to ask for water before being served. Hotels and motels are also directed to inform guests that they are able to opt out of daily turndown service to save on water used for laundry service.

3. Some Cities Will Have Lower Targets

Responding to criticism that cities that have done their part to conserve are not being credited for their efforts, the water board is rewarding them with easier requirements. With nine tiers of conservation goals ranging from 4 percent to 36 percent, both San Diego and Los Angeles now have to reduce their usage by 16 percent compared with a previous proposal of 20 percent, while San Bernardino must cut its potable water use by 32 percent instead of the initial mandate of 25 percent.

4. Urban Use Over Agriculture

Some of the criticism surrounding these regulations is the focus on city use instead of water used by farmers, who utilize 80 percent of the state’s water to help feed the country with the products of California’s fertile fields. State water officials disagreed with that take on Saturday.

“Ag has felt the brunt of this,” said Marcus. “We’re focusing on urban in this set of regulations. [Agriculture] has been affected for multiple years and will be again, very severely, by this drought.”

5. Enforcement and Embarrassment

“The point is to get conservation, not fines,” Marcus explained. “Fines are a tool.” But they’re one of the only tools the board can rely on. Commercial agricultural suppliers who fail to follow the conservation order will face fines of $500 a day. After they are presented with a cease-and-desist order, the fine skyrockets to $10,000 a day. Also, those who fail to comply will be revealed in monthly pubic documents, which should work to encourage them to follow the rules to avoid embarrassment.