After a year of heroic water conservation under state-mandated emergency rules, Californians will shift this summer to ongoing water-saving practices guided by local conditions.
Under new rules adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, California is transitioning from last year’s one-size-fits-all mandatory reductions in water use to a locally driven approach better suited to where we are today. It reflects improved water supplies in many areas and recognizes substantial investments that local communities have made in drought-resilient supplies.
Californians have done a tremendous job of saving water in response to the state’s historic drought, with extraordinary measures including brown lawns, shower buckets and turf removal.
Now, urban Californians will continue their water-efficient practices under locally managed programs designed to ensure adequate supplies through three additional dry years. This does not mean conservation is going away, only that emergency measures will be replaced in many areas.
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No one is ready to declare the drought over, especially not local water managers, who know the next dry year is always just around the corner. So while we may be enjoying a reprieve this year, we are not about to let down our guard.
No one is getting a free pass. Californians are much more efficient water users today than even a few years ago, and that is not going to change. Local water agencies will continue that momentum with ongoing conservation and permanent prohibitions on wasteful practices such as hosing down driveways and irrigating landscapes within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.
As a recent Field Poll revealed, the drought has changed the way most Californians view water. Three-fourths of respondents said it is important to continue saving water both inside and outside their homes, and nearly nine in 10 said they plan to do so permanently.
Californians get it. Last year, they understood we were in a drought that required extraordinary action. But they rely on their water supplier to tell them when heroic conservation is needed. To maintain credibility with their customers, we must be able to tailor the level of conservation to actual water supplies.
Kathleen Tiegs, a director of the Cucamonga Valley Water District, is president of the Association of California Water Agencies and can be contacted at KathyT@cvwdwater.com. Brent Hastey, a director of the Yuba County Water Agency, is vice president of ACWA and can be contacted at email@example.com.