California orders water use reductions to combat drought

California has ordered mandatory water use reductions for the first time in its history.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in an executive order, imposed restrictions to achieve a statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage through February 28, 2016.

"We're standing on dry ground and we should be standing on 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow," Reuters has written quoting Brown. The state would develop rebate plans to help families and businesses remove a planned 50 million square feet (4.6 million square meters) of lawns, and replace old appliances with newer, more water-efficient models.

This step means that industrial parks and golf courses must immediately cut a quarter of their water use on ornamental turf, and homeowners will be pressed to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping.

Farmers will not be held to the 25 percent reduction as they have already been deeply affected by the state's moves to release less water than usual from reservoirs during the last three years of drought, as well as periodic restrictions on pumping from rivers and creeks.

Causes of less water supplies in California

  • Less amount of rainfall and snowfall this winter
  • Record low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains
  • Decreased water levels in most of California's reservoirs
  • Reduced flows in the state's river 
  • Shrinking supplies in underground water basins

"Regulators would not hesitate to issue fines of up to $10,000 a day to water districts that do not succeed in implementing the cutbacks," Reuters reported quoting Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board as saying.

Governor Jay Inslee had declared a drought emergency across three regions of Washington state in March this year. The drought emergency was prompted by near record-low mountain snowpack ahead of the spring runoff.



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