Though Gov. Jerry Brown had urged a voluntary 20% reduction in water use, figures released last month indicated a drop of only 5% statewide for the year. But the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday updated the monthly survey from water districts to show that consumption had increased 1% in May compared with a year ago.
Based on the initial figures, the board last week proposed banning watering lawns, washing cars or sidewalks and running fountains, with violators facing fines up to $500 a day. On Tuesday evening, the board adopted those measures. Police will have the authority to ticket water-wasters.
"Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is ... and how bad it could be," Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told the Associated Press before the vote. "There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state."
Should the restrictions and fines prove inadequate, Marcus said, other steps could include even tighter rules for landscaping and possibly higher rates for wasteful consumers. Water agencies may also be required to fix their leaking pipes, which waste about 10% of all water used.
Two regions accounted for the reported increase: the coast of Southern California and the northeastern corner of the state that hugs the Oregon and Nevada borders and runs south to Mono Lake.
The San Francisco Bay Area and cities in Southern California that tap the Colorado River reduced their use by 5%. Sacramento River communities cut their consumption the most over the past year: 13%.
The agency has reported that 80% of the state is experiencing "exceptional drought conditions," reservoirs are low, and nearly 50 communities are in danger of running out of water. The drought, the worst in decades, will stretch into next year, regardless of whether El Nino storm systems bring extra-heavy winter rain and snow.
Groundwater reserves are helping the agriculture-intensive San Joaquin Valley weather the drought, but the region must stop treating those sources "like an unlimited savings account," according to an economic-impact survey released Tuesday.
The survey, from the University of California-Davis, found that the drought will cost the state's economy $2.2 billion and about 17,000 jobs from the hit to agriculture. Consumers, however, are expected to be spared higher prices because of the impact on produce and livestock.
source: usatoday.com by Michael Winter