Governor Gavin Newsom met with representatives from the state’s largest water agencies on Monday and urged them to “take more aggressive” measures to get residents to reduce their water usage amid California’s worsening drought. He threatened that if conservation efforts aren’t improved by summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory water restrictions throughout the state, according to a news statement.
In July 2021, Newsom called for Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15 percent. The state has failed to reach this goal, with water use in cities and towns increasing by nearly 19 percent in March, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in the news statement. “Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count.”
During the last drought, from 2012 to 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a mandatory 25 percent reduction in urban water use. Many Californians adjusted to the restrictions and took steps such as converting lawns to drought-tolerant plants, according to the Times.
After that drought, water agencies asked state officials if their drought response could be based on regional needs, which gave them more flexibility than statewide mandates. Newsom embraced this localized approach, but on Monday, he voiced concerns given the state’s current conservation levels.
“Governor Newsom warned that if this localized approach to conservation does not result in a significant reduction in water use statewide this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions,” his office said in the statement.
Newsom’s office said he will reconvene with the water agencies in two months to provide an update on their progress.
Monday meeting was closed to the press and public. Attendees included representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, according to Associated Press.
The State Water Resources Control Board will vote Tuesday on a statewide ban against watering “non-functional” turf on commercial, industrial and institutional properties, as well as restrictions requiring local suppliers to implement water-use restrictions, the Times reports.
Currently, local water suppliers have adopted regulations for roughly half of California’s population. If the board’s restrictions are approved, every urban area in the state will be covered by a local plan to decrease water use.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced changes to its conservation approach, ruling that outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days a week, down from the current limit of three days, beginning June 1.
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