Newsom urges more aggressive water conservation amid drought

Governor Gavin Newsom met leaders of the state’s largest urban water suppliers Monday and urged them to step up efforts to reduce water use as California’s drought continues to worsen. than. He warned that if conservation efforts do not improve this summer, the state could be forced to impose mandatory statewide water restrictions.

Ten months ago, Newsom urged Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15%, but the state has yet to meet that goal.

The latest conservation figures are particularly poor. Water use in cities and towns increased by nearly 19% in March, a particularly warm and dry month. Compared to the 2020 baseline, cumulative statewide water savings since July have only amounted to 3.7%.

“Every statewide water agency needs to take more aggressive action to announce a drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said. “Californias have experienced significant changes since the last drought, but we have seen water use increase, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to think harder about how every drop counts.”

Alicia De Mello watering her front yard in South Pasadena

Alicia De Mello watered her front yard in South Pasadena.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

For part of the 2012-16 drought, then-Government. Jerry Brown has ordered a mandatory 25% reduction in urban water use. Many Californians have responded by mowing and taking steps like converting lawns to drought-resistant crops.

Local water authorities told state officials that they preferred an approach that would allow more flexibility and would be better suited to their local situation. Newsom advocated a local approach. But the governor’s office said in a statement that Newsom “expressed concern today about recent levels of conservation around the state.”

“Government. Newsom warns that if this localized conservation approach doesn’t lead to significant reductions in water use statewide this summer, the state may be forced to enact mandatory restrictions. said his room. “The Governor will reconvene these same agencies over the next two months to provide updates.”

Monday’s meeting is not open to the public and is not broadcast live. Officials who attended the meeting at the California Department of Natural Resources, in Sacramento, included leaders from the Southern California Urban Water District, Los Angeles Water Department, San Diego County Water Authority, District Utilities City of East Bay and other major water providers. Together, their agencies provide water for about two-thirds of Californians.

Newsom issued an executive order in March urging local water authorities to take more aggressive conservation measures. Under that order, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote Tuesday on emergency regulations requiring local water providers to activate “Level 2” of local contingency plans. of them to prepare for a shortage of up to 20%. The regulations also include a statewide ban on the use of potable water for “non-functional” lawn irrigation at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties – including homeowners associations as well as businesses.

According to the governor’s office, about half of California’s population currently has water restrictions implemented by local water agencies. If the state water board approves the emergency regulations, every metropolitan area across the state will be included in the local water use reduction plan.

The severe drought, now in its third year in California, is one of the most severe on record and is made worse by hotter temperatures and global warming. The first three months of the year were the driest on record. The state’s largest reservoirs are currently at about half of their average.

Across the American West, scientists have found that the extreme dry spell since 2000 has become the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years, a super-drought that the study found. shown to be increasing by climate change.

Some scientists describe this trend as aridity and say that the West must be prepared for further heat drying as temperatures rise with the burning of fossil fuels and increasing levels of warming. increase in greenhouse gases.

Newsom has proposed an additional $2 billion this year for drought response efforts.

The state government has expanded its drought-fighting campaign, called Save Our Water, and is urging Californians to conserve by taking steps like limiting outdoor watering, bathing shorter times, and washing more. clothes.

Adel Hagekhalil, superintendent of the Metropolitan Water District, attended Monday’s meeting and said the district supports Newsom’s call to reduce water consumption to prolong California’s dwindling supplies in the face of climate crises. summer month.

“We appreciate the governor’s collaborative approach to addressing drought across the state by allowing water agencies to identify water-saving actions that are appropriate for specific circumstances. of their communities,” Hagekhalil said in a statement. “Different parts of our state have different water supplies and are being affected by the state’s drought differently.”

The Metropolitan Water District in April declared a water emergency and ordered restrictions on outdoor watering in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties based on the affected State Water Project. heavily affected, transporting water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River southward. Delta. The water restrictions will go into effect June 1 and aim to reduce water use by around 35%.

Although Newsom’s meeting with managers of water agencies focused on improving conservation in urban areas, the drought is also affecting agriculture and food production. Many growers have seen their water supply drastically cut, and have turned to pumping more groundwater or leaving some of the arable land arid and uncultivable.

Of the water diverted and pumped in California, state data shows an average of about 80% is used for agriculture while the remaining 20% ​​is used for cities and towns.

In a recent report from the California Department of Agriculture and Food, researchers calculated that reduced water supplies resulted in 395,000 acres of cropland becoming dry and uncultivable last year — a large acreage. than Los Angeles.

The researchers calculated that last year’s drought had slashed the state’s agricultural sector by an estimated 8,745 jobs and incurred $1.2 billion in costs due to water cuts. These costs are expected to increase this year as much of the Central Valley arable land dries up. Newsom urges more aggressive water conservation amid drought

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