State Watch

New water restrictions approved in drought-stricken California

Ethan Swope/ AP
A kayaker fishes in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2021. 

California on Tuesday adopted an emergency water conservation regulation to “ensure more aggressive conservation by local water agencies across the state” almost a year after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) asked that people voluntarily cut their water usage. 

Under the new policy, commercial, industrial and institutional properties cannot water their turf except for areas used for recreation or community purposes beginning on June 10, according to the California Water Board.   

The plan, which is intended to address an up to 20 percent shortage of water supplies, includes policies for enforcement, such as fining people up to $500 for “non-functional turf irrigation.”

Non-functional turf is defined as turf used for “solely ornamental” purposes and not for recreational activities, sports or community events, according to Chris Hyun, of the Water Board’s Office of Research, Planning and Performance, who spoke at California’s state water resources control board meeting on Tuesday.

“Coming into the summer months here, we know here we need to prepare for a drier next year,” E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the Water Board, said at the Tuesday hearing.   

“We need to activate Californians and really lean into the conservation that we’re needing to see,” he also said. 

Throughout the state, major water reservoirs have been largely used with capacities well below their historical averages. 

The stricter measures to preserve water came after Newsom declared a drought emergency in July and asked Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15 percent. 

By March, that push had not worked, and Newsom issued an executive order asking local agencies to increase efforts related to their response to the state’s drought.

Tags California Drought Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Newsom
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