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Newsom Orders Tighter Water Conservation

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Gov. Gavin Newsom took steps Monday to increase water conservation at the local level amid the ongoing drought. (AP File)
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The storm moving Monday through California did nothing to ease drought concerns after the three driest months in recorded state history.

In fact, Gov. Gavin Newsom took steps Monday afternoon to increase water conservation at the local level.

In an executive order, he directed the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on watering decorative grass at businesses and institutions.

However, the potential ban wouldn’t extend to residential lawns or grass used for recreation, such as school fields, sports fields, and parks — although the number of “water days” is likely to be reduced. According to the state Department of Water Resources, the ban under consideration would save several hundred thousand acre-feet of water.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy, and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” Newsom said in a news release. “Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. …. We must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life.”

Last July, the governor asked residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 15% from 2020. But the state’s water use has only dropped 6.5%. And, in January, urban water use rose by 2.6% compared to the same month in 2020.

What the Executive Order Does

The executive order also:

— Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately.

— Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85& of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought.

— Streamlines permits for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come.

— Expedites state agency approvals to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival.

— Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring.

A copy of the executive order can be found here.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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