California water officials have recently implemented new water conservation rules to discourage residents from wasting water. These regulations, which were adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, prohibit wasteful actions, such as hosing down sidewalks and over watering yards, during times of drought.
Parts of California have been experiencing drought conditions for years. Despite recent downpours and snowfalls, California is still experiencing a major water shortage that calls for continuing water conservation efforts.
The new emergency drought regulations are practical ways that California residents can be more mindful of water use. The rules prohibit such things as using potable water for street cleaning, construction, filing fountains, and irrigating grass on public street medians. These new regulations, which will be in effect for one year, will be applied statewide.
Those who violate these rules could face fines of up to $500. During the last severe drought in California, which lasted from 2012 to 2016, similar regulations were put into effect to help boost conservation practices among residents.
Unfortunately, the State Water Resources Control Board’s regulations do not address the problem of agricultural water use. Currently, agricultural practices use about 80% of water that is pumped for human use every year. Farming areas in the Central Valley have been an ongoing source of overpumping of groundwater. The heavy water use by the agricultural practices in this region has led many household wells in the area to run dry.
Another concern with the new regulations is that low-income households could suffer from the burden of possible fines. In order to address this, the final version of the regulations includes a statement that any fines will be based on the customer’s ability to pay, and will not result in a water shutoff or tax lien on a resident’s property. A 12-month payment plan option is also included to help low-income residents..
During November 2021, California saw some success in water conservation efforts. While water usage was reduced by 6.8% statewide, some areas saw even greater reductions (in the Bay Area, water use was reduced by 20.2% in November). Other parts of the state, including the South Coast region of Southern California, saw some slight increases in water use.
Given that the state’s water reservoirs are at below-average levels, continuing water conservation efforts are absolutely necessary. The state’s new rules may help push residents to waste less water, and to report instances of water waste that they see happening in their communities. Local water agencies will follow up on any complaints, and work with residents to help them comply with the new water restrictions.
Often, these education efforts are enough to help fix the water waste problems. Fines, on the other hand, will be applied in cases of repeat or flagrant violations, as it is essential that water waste be taken seriously.
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