Governor Jerry Brown ordered California’s first mandatory water restrictions as the drought gripping the state enters a fourth year.
Brown issued an executive order seeking a mandatory 25 percent reduction in use and a requirement that new homes feature water-efficient irrigation if the builder plans to use potable water for landscaping. He also called for 50 million square feet of lawns to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping and required campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to cut back on water.
“This historic drought demands unprecedented actions,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The executive order allows water agencies to raise rates to encourage conservation and discourage waste. The agriculture industry will be required to report more usage information to regulators. Brown’s order also strengthens standards for management plans required by agricultural water districts.
Municipalities and water districts are charged with implementing restrictions, and employees who are empowered to enforce the rules are allowed to issue tickets. Until now, most cities and towns have chosen first to issue warnings and to impose fines only on repeat offenders.
About 80 percent of California’s water goes toward its $48.8 billion industry producing dairy, beef, eggs, fruits, nuts and vegetables. The state’s San Joaquin Valley, sandwiched between coastal hills and the Sierra Nevada, is the most productive agricultural region in the world.
Brown, 76, has been under pressure to impose restrictions after hopes for a wetter-than-usual winter to replenish reservoirs subsided with the end of March. A dry spring left San Francisco with 89 percent of its usual rainfall and Los Angeles with 64 percent, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
The bigger impact will be on older homes, especially the 7.5 million residences built before codes enacted after the 1970s drought, he said. Those often have bigger yards and lack water-saving plumbing fixtures.
“That’s where the real water savings can occur,” he said.
Brown’s executive order proposed a statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with water-saving and energy-efficient models.