California officials are considering whether the time has come for permanent water restrictions.
Folks in the Golden State remember all too well when their four-year-long drought forced them to watch their daily water use. The drought emergency officially ended in April 2017, but it’s returned to parts of the state, and the snowpack is crazy low. Governor Jerry Brown was clear he wanted water conservation to remain a “way of life” for Californians—but wasteful water use is up in some cities.
Now, the California Water Resources Board is deciding whether that way of life should become more, well, formalized. The board will decide by April 17 (after pushing back the date from Tuesday to extend the public comment period) whether the state should regulate its water the way it did under the drought. That includes no watering of lawns, no hosing down sidewalks, and no automatic glasses of water with dinner—or potentially facing a $500 fine.
However, water district representatives aren’t too happy about this proposal, reports The Associated Press. While some don’t take issue with the restrictions themselves, they are taking issue with how the state is planning to make those restrictions legal: under the state Constitution’s prohibition on the “waste or unreasonable use” of water.
“Erratic individuals can occupy great positions of power in government, and you had better believe they will occupy your chair someday,” said Jackson Minasian, an attorney for Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Co., a local water company that’s defended water rights against the state water board in the past, to the AP. “Their view of what is ‘waste and unreasonable use’ will be radically different than yours.”
Regardless what the water resources board decides, farmers who depend on the federal government for their water won’t be receiving as much as they might’ve expected: Those who receive water from the Central Valley Project will receive just 20 percent of what they requested.
“Given what we know today, and what we see in the forecast, we must be very conservative with our allocation,” said David Murillo, the Mid-Pacific regional director for the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the Central Valley Project, in a press release. “If this lack of rain and snow continues, we could very well be right back in drought operations.”
This Murillo’s got a point. Climate change makes everything so much more unpredictable. California’s already seen what can happen when it’s not conservative with its water resources. As climate change throws more stress on these water systems by reducing rainfall, states like California will have to make difficult decisions around water use.