Drought causes California government to demand 25% reduction in water use

Ashley Hoang, Staff Writer

The Californian image of luscious green pastures and shimmering lakes is now gone; to many, it is no surprise that California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history.

The past three years in California have been among the driest on record; state officials are now worrying that 2015 will be even worse, leading them to finally take serious action.

On April 1, for the first time in history, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive emergency order to place a restriction on all cities and towns, requiring them to reduce their local water usage by 25 percent.

The new order will hopefully improve the state’s ability to manage water and effectively practice better habits in drought conditions.

However, the practicability of the order raises doubt in certain cities where water usage fluctuates due to varying temperatures and precipitation levels.

“The city recognizes that further conservation measures will be required to achieve the Governor’s conservation mandate,” Beverly Hills interim City Manager Mahdi Aluzri wrote in his letter to officials. “However, the city is concerned that achieving a 35% conservation standard in such a short time may ultimately be infeasible.”

Deputy Director of Public Works Chad Blais argues that forcing a 20 percent reduction for all citizens in impractical due to their economic hardships.

“If you drive through the city of Compton most of the front yards are brown,” Blais wrote to the state.  “Therefore, the prospect of achieving an additional 20% reduction from this community is not feasible.”

“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” Brown said in his April statement when he ordered the emergency issue. “At some point, we have to learn to live with nature, we have to get on nature’s side and not abuse the resources that we have.”

The order calls for water reduction and conservation through exercises such as having water agencies limit the number of days each week customers can water their lawns, banning the use of drinking water to irrigate median strips in public roads, and initiating the removal of 1,150 football fields’ worth of grass to be replaced with drought-tolerant plants.

Despite these new regulations, some citizens are continuing on with their former water-consumption.

Along the southern coast of California, residents from cities such as San  Diego and Los Angeles are showing an increase in water consumption instead of a decrease, despite their longstanding calls for cutbacks.

Other cities, such as Stockton, Santa Cruz and Mountain View, are already becoming more water-conscious — even before Brown’s emergency declaration.

Assistant director of Stockton’s Municipal Utilities Department, Bob Granberg, said the groundwater is at a good level and stricter measures are not yet needed.

“If we use a lot more groundwater than we normally use, and cause groundwater to drop, then we would require more stringent restrictions,” Granberg said in a KCRA 3 interview.

Despite Stockton’s well-stocked water supply, officials still urge residents to conserve their water usage, whether it’s through shorter showers, fewer baths, or simply turning off the faucet when they’re brushing their teeth.

Other cities and water agencies argue that the proposed reductions does not give credit to cities that have already begun reducing water usage and finding new sources of water.

“Northern California should not be responsible for the actions of Southern California’s residents who still overuse water while we are in a drought,” senior Angie Huynh said. “They shouldn’t enforce harsher laws on all cities and towns, but to those who are already have a higher water usage.”

The order, however, has been altered and drafted to better address the different circumstances of cities.

For the smaller urban suppliers that serve fewer than 3,000 connections, the draft regulations give them a choice: achieve a 25 percent use reduction or limit outdoor irrigation to only two days per week.

The new draft also calls for urban water suppliers to be placed into conservation tiers based on their average per capita water use, which would also determine the water percentage that they must reduce.

Smaller cities, such as Arcata, have a lower average per capita water use in the state between June 2014 and January 2015; they would only face an eight percent reduction, according to the Bay Area News Group.

In contrast, larger water suppliers in the county would face cuts ranging from 12 percent to 28 percent.

“[The new draft] is more manageable than what we were looking at a week ago,” Arcata Environmental Services Department Director Marc Andre said about the city’s tier placement in an interview with “Eureka Times-Standard.”  “I’m glad they’re not taking such a broad brush to this and are considering communities that are pretty efficient with their residential water use.”

With the new order and draft, California is expecting a greater, and fairer, participation in conserving water, with more citizens aware and careful about their water usage.

“I don’t think people are intentionally wasting water,” junior Dominique Tagupa said. “They are just carelessly wasting water because they are unaware of the severity of our drought.”