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.