SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Grass in office parks, on college campuses or in some California neighborhoods will turn brown this summer after state water officials passed a ban on watering some green spaces on Tuesday amid drought of the state continues.
The ban passed by the State Water Resources Control Board follows Governor Gavin Newsom’s call for Californians to use less water or face sweeping mandatory restrictions on water use. The council also voted to require local water districts to adopt stricter conservation measures, although these are locally designed to meet the different needs of the community. Many of these rules place additional limits on how often people can water their garden.
“The governor made it clear yesterday that there was a sense of urgency here,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the water board.
California is in its third year of severe drought, part of a two-decade mega-drought facing the American West that scientists say is the worst in 1,200 years. Warmer temperatures are also exacerbating the state’s water problems, as people have started watering their lawns earlier than normal. From January to March, the California winter was the driest in at least a century.
Beginning June 10, watering of certain lawns outside of businesses, industrial facilities and institutions such as colleges, hospitals and government facilities, as well as spaces managed by homeowners associations, will no longer be permitted. no longer allowed.
Grass that cannot be watered includes anything that is used for decoration and not for regular activities or events. The ban does not apply to parks, sports fields, private lawns or the watering of trees. It would apply to grass managed by homeowners associations, but not to individual residents. Violators can be fined $500 per day.
Beyond those restrictions, about 400 local water districts that supply cities and towns in California must step up conservation actions, the council voted. Each district follows conservation requirements based on local plans created after the last drought. Many further limit how often people can water their lawns and aim to reinforce public messages about the value of conservation.
Officials from many water agencies have urged the council not to force them all into further restrictions and instead give them more discretion depending on their local supply conditions. Stacy Taylor, water policy manager at the Mesa Water District in Orange County, said many local districts have already achieved significant water savings and increased supply through investments in the water storage, recycling and other measures.
“We don’t have a shortage because we did what the state asked for,” she said.
The council approved an exclusion for a small number of water districts, including Santa Cruz, a coastal city of about 65,000 people where water usage is already very low, at about 45 gallons per person per day, said Rosemary Menard, district water manager. A 10 minute shower uses about 20 gallons.
Santa Cruz is not as hot or dry as many parts of inland California, and the city does not receive water from state supplies. The next step in the district’s local plan is water rationing, which Menard says isn’t necessary.
Under the exclusion, districts that do not rely on state or federal supplies or the Colorado River, have low average per capita water use, and do not rely heavily on groundwater depletion will face a different set of rules. Only about 10 districts should be able to meet these criteria, said Max Gomberg, head of water conservation and climate change.
Rather than taking the next step in their local plans, they will be required to limit outdoor watering with potable water to two days a week and only at certain times. They must launch public awareness campaigns on conservation.