California Lays Out Second Draft of Statewide Water Cutback Plan

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California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Saturday unveiled the latest outline for the implementation of water cutbacks across the Golden State.

In response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order mandating a 25 percent cut in statewide water use this year, the Board had prepared an initial plan earlier this month that created four tiers of reduction rates, with cutbacks ordered increased or decreased based on communities’ track record of water conservation.

In response to over 250 complaints from communities, business owners, water companies and residents, the Board released its second draft of the water cutback proposal on Saturday, according to the New York Times. The Board said the new rules would better take into account factors that the previous outline had not addressed.

“Many communities around the state have been conserving for years,” the Board wrote in the latest proposal. “Some of these communities have achieved remarkable results with residential water use now hovering around the statewide target for indoor water use, while others are using many times more. Everyone must do more, but the greatest opportunities to meet the statewide 25 percent conservation standard now exist in those areas with higher water use.”

The new outline expands the original creation of four cutback tiers to nine, ranging from 4 percent to 36 percent, though so far no communities fall into the lowest category. San Francisco, which under the previous plan had been required to cut water use by 10 percent, must now meet an 8 percent reduction target, while Los Angeles saw its conservation target reduced to 16 percent from 20 percent. The lower numbers reflect each city’s use of less water as compared with other cities in the state.

“I’m pleased that the Water Resources Control Board has recognized our aggressive conservation efforts,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

Meanwhile, cities and communities that use more water, like Arcadia and San Diego, saw their water reduction targets modestly increased. Beverly Hills, which had been ordered to reduce water use by 35 percent under the previous plan, must now comply with a slightly higher cut of 36 percent.

To ensure water agencies are complying with the cuts, the Board is authorized to hand out sizable fines to those using more than their allotted water, up to $10,000 a day. Still, Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus told the Los Angeles Times that communities with the highest cutback rates should not have trouble hitting their targets.

“Those who are using the most have the easiest way to go because [it is] primarily outdoor irrigation,” Marcus told the paper. “And that, frankly, has been our top priority here because that’s what you can reduce without undue economic or personal impact.”

Notably, Brown’s 25 percent water reduction mandate does not apply to the state’s agriculture industry, which accounts for 80 percent of the state’s total water use. According to the Times, communities that provide at least 20 percent of their water to agriculture can ask the Board not to count that water in their conservation assessments.

State regulators will reportedly look to implement a final set of rules by early May, just in time for the beginning of summer, when water use typically spikes. Fines and other enforcement measures would take effect in July.


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