Delta News

Gov. Brown orders more emergency drought measures

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a sweeping new emergency drought proclamation, cutting red tape for a variety of government functions to help water agencies find new supplies, and to press the public to use water carefully.

“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in a statement.

The governor first proclaimed a drought emergency Jan. 17. This second proclamation goes further by waiving compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and the state water code for a number of actions, including water transfers, wastewater treatment projects, habitat improvements for winter-run Chinook salmon imperiled by the drought and curtailment of water rights.

The order also suspends competitive bidding requirements for drought-related projects undertaken by a number of state agencies, including the departments of Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Public Health.

Water agencies and some environmental groups praised the order, saying it strikes a proper balance between emergency response and environmental protection.

Others said it goes too far.

“The danger is the bad precedent this sets for waiving environmental protections,” said Jonas Minton, a water adviser at the Planning and Conservation League in Sacramento. “In this dry year, the limitation is not environmental protection. It’s the lack of water throughout California.”

The order calls on all Californians to avoid using water to clean sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and other hardscapes; to wash vehicles only at car washes that use recycled water; and to limit landscape watering to twice weekly. It encourages outdoor sports facilities to similarly reduce irrigation of playing fields. It urges hotels and restaurants to give patrons options to reduce water consumption, such as limiting laundering of linens and making water available only on request.

It calls on the State Water Resources Control Board to order all local water service providers to adopt these measures as customer requirements, if they have not already.

The proclamation also seeks to plug a loophole that allows homeowner associations to require residents to water lawns, even if this conflicts with local water agency rules, and to fine them if they do not. It declares “void and unenforceable” any such provision of a homeowner association governing document.