Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. announced the first ever statewide mandatory water reductions on Wednesday April 1st, after the California Department of Water Resources’ snow survey did not detect any snow at an elevation of 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevadas. This was the first time in 75 years that no snow was found during the annual survey that takes place in early April.
These findings, which confirm the ongoing severity of the drought, prompted the governor to issue an executive order to reduce water usage across California by 25% from 2013 levels. The water board is expected to release draft regulations in the middle of April and approve the regulations in early May. The order:
- Requires campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to install water-saving systems to meet the 25 percent reduction.
- Prohibits new homes and developments from irrigating with drinkable water unless a water-efficient drip irrigation system is used.
- Bans cities from watering ornamental grass on public street medians.
- Requires 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping through programs with local governments.
- Creates a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old water-guzzling appliances with more efficient ones.
- Requires farmers to report more information on their water use to state regulators.
- Increases state enforcement of illegal diversions of water or unreasonable water waste.
The Sierra snowpack is a crucial barometer of how much water the state will have available in the current year. California is in its fourth year of drought, and with the Sierra snowpack recording new lows not only in the depth but in the water content of that snow, little runoff is expected to replenish the state’s reservoirs. The water content was 5 percent of normal on Wednesday April 1st — the lowest it’s been since records were compiled starting in 1950. Snowmelt makes up 60 percent of the water that is captured in California’s reservoirs and, during a normal year, it provides about 30 percent of the state’s overall water supply.
While many cities and water agencies within the CVAR region have saved substantial amounts of water since water conservation emergency regulations were first adopted in July 2014, there are many more opportunities for us as a region to conserve even greater amounts of water. Some of these include turf removal rebates, discounts on irrigation materials and appliance rebates to name a few. CVAR members and their clients should contact their local city or water agency to determine the full breadth of water incentives in that area.