Drought stricken California is turning to some drastic measures to encourage residents to save each and every precious ounce of water.  The State has expanded restrictions on water use due to the fact that California is entering its fourth consecutive year of drought.  To make matters worse some experts thought that we could potentially see a march miracle- where winter storms would increase and drop much needed snow onto our existing snowpack.  For a few weeks at the end of February it looked like this could potentially happen as the weather patterns were looking promising.  In the recent weeks its been determined that these systems have broken down and it appears to be at a point where winter ends without significant storms or snowfall to replenish dwindling reservoirs.

The drought’s effects are touching most of the state, hurting wildlife and forcing farmers to leave fields unplanted. For many farmers its becoming more valuable to not plant crops and sell the water that they had allocated for these unplanted crops to manciple city water supply agancies!

The new laws have focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. By Extending statewide outdoor water limits which restrict the use of:

  • Washing down driveways
  • Decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and
  • Sprinklers that spray pavement.
  • New rules will require local water departments to restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don’t, residents must follow a state limit of twice a week.
  • Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days after.

The regulations also mandate that businesses statewide pitch in and adhere to conservation measures. Restaurants can’t offer water unless customers ask, and hotels and motels must offer guests an opportunity to decline fresh towels and sheets at hotels.

One of the primary issues surrounding the effectiveness of this program is the ability of local water departments to enforce these rules.  Most aggressively they can fine offenders $500 per violation, but few have gone that far.  The Associated Press found wide disparities in enforcement, from Los Angeles issuing just two $200 fines in a service area of nearly 4 million people to Santa Cruz levying more than $1.6 million in water waste penalties.  How can this be?

TO help remedy the disparities and increase the new laws effectiveness the water board said Tuesday it will start tracking how agencies enforce the regulations, including the number of citations, fines given and warning letters issued.  If the agencies can enforce on a uniform level CA may just have what it takes to overcome another year of drought.