A new kind of dry state: California imposes mandatory water cuts, 25% reduction

Drought Map of USA, March 31, 2015
Public Domain USDM

Voluntary cuts are not cutting it anymore

The historic drought that California is going through is no joke. It actually has the potential to remake the state in many ways, forcing it to drop unsustainable practices and live more within its H2O means. And that's not some far-in-the-future notion, it has already started: For the first time ever, Governor Jerry Brown has ordered statewide mandatory water reductions. State officials have said that household rationing could be implemented by some local water agencies to meet the goal of reducing overall water use in the state by 25% over the next 9 months. This represents the equivalent amount of water used by a city of 6 million people over one year.

The 'water police' will focus on the irrigation of lawns and other outdoor landscapes, which are big water users (especially places like large campuses, golf courses and cemeteries). This means a ban on non-drip irrigation systems, which is something that should be done everywhere anyway, since they are much more efficient.

The water crisis is especially terrible right now because of something that is missing: Snow, high in the Sierra Nevada, a great reserve of water that feeds streams and rivers, is absent for the first time in at least 75 years. The Wall Street Journal writes: "California’s network of reservoirs was designed to capture the water from snow melt in the spring. But this year, reservoirs are already near half-empty and aren’t expected to see much more water. That is problematic because demand typically peaks in the warmer summer months, while California’s rainy season doesn’t start until the fall."

Flickr/CC BY 2.0

“The situation is unprecedented and critical and requires the action of all hands on deck,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, said in a media briefing Wednesday.

For more past coverage on the severity of this never-ending dry spell, see these:

One obvious place to find water savings is agriculture. As I wrote about earlier this year, just the growing of almonds in California uses over 250% more water than all of L.A. (which is totally nuts, pun intended). Last year, California's farmers left 400,000 acres of fields unplanted, more are expected this year, said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Bert Kaufmann/CC BY 2.0


Tags: California | Water Conservation | Water Crisis


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