Gov. Newsom is threatening to impose mandatory water restrictions on California residents as drought conditions persist in 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday threatened to impose mandatory water restrictions if residents don’t use less themselves as a drought drags on and hotter summer months draw closer.

Newsom raised the possibility at a meeting with officials from major water agencies, including those that serve Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area, his office said in a release.

The Democratic governor has avoided enacting sweeping, mandatory water-use cuts, instead advocating an approach that gives local water boards the power to set rules for water use in the cities and communities they serve.

January through March typically gets most of California’s annual rain and snow, but this year those months were the driest in at least a century.

Despite calls for savings, the state’s water use rose dramatically in March — by 19% compared to the same month in 2020 — and now Newsom is considering changing its approach.

“Every water agency statewide needs to take more aggressive action to communicate about the drought emergency and implement safeguards,” Newsom said in a statement.

California is in its third year of drought, and virtually all areas of the state are experiencing either severe or extreme drought.

Newsom last summer called on Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15% by doing things like taking five-minute showers and no baths, only running the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads, and limiting the amount of water used to clean outdoor areas. But residents have fallen far short of the mark.

How quickly Newsom could impose binding restrictions if conservation does not improve was not clear. He plans to meet with water authorities again in two months, his office said. Spokeswoman Erin Mellon said the administration will reevaluate conservation progress in just “a couple of weeks.” She offered no metric by which the administration would measure.

Newsom has already taken steps to enforce more conservation from local water districts. He directed the State Water Resources Control Board to consider banning irrigation of ornamental lawns such as grass in office parks and forcing local authorities to step up conservation efforts.

After the recent drought, the state required cities and other water districts to submit drought response plans that outline six levels of protection based on the amount of water available. Newsom has asked the board to require those districts to enter “Level 2” of their plans, which assumes a 20% water shortage.

Each district can set its own Level 2 rules, and they often include things like further limiting water use for outdoor purposes and paying people to install more efficient equipment or landscaping that uses less water. They must include a communication plan to persuade local residents to use less water.

The board will vote on these measures on Tuesday and they would go into effect on June 10.

Last week, while touring a water recycling facility in Los Angeles County, Newsom spoke about the need to better educate the state’s 39 million residents about the need to conserve water. He added $100 million to his drought messaging budget.

During the most recent drought of 2012-2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown enacted a mandatory 25% cut in the state’s total water use, and the state water board set requirements for how much each water district had to cut based on its existing water use; Districts where people were using more water were told to cut more. Water boards could be fined up to $10,000 a day if they don’t comply.

Newsom’s current approach gives local water districts a bit more flexibility, and he said it’s important to recognize that different parts of the state have their own water needs.

The state water agency has imposed some statewide restrictions, such as: B. Banning watering their lawns for 48 hours after rainstorms and sprinklers running on sidewalks. People can be fined $500 per day for violations.

Attendees at the meeting included representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Alameda County Water District, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Valley Water and the San Diego County Water Authority, the Association of California Water Agencies, the California Urban Water Agencies and the California Municipal Utilities Association. The meeting was not open to the press or to the public.

The video in the media player is from a previous story

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc7.com/california-water-restrictions-2022-gavin-newsom-drought-watering/11885899/ Gov. Newsom is threatening to impose mandatory water restrictions on California residents as drought conditions persist in 2022

Laura Coffey

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