Before you decide to take a long hot shower, think again. California tops the list of states suffering from the worst drought in history, especially because 75% of the land is affected by the drought. This past week California Governor Jerry Brown ordered an executive order aimed at restricting water use by 25% beginning next month.
This executive order is the first of its kind in state history, and did not come out of nowhere. For the past year Governor Brown has failed to convince Californians to voluntarily cut back on at least 20% their water usage, and we are now facing the consequences of not meeting that goal. Last week the lowest snowpack in its 60 years of recording in the Sierra Nevada meadow was measured, which is alarming considering the fact that the melted snow usually provides water for an estimated 25 million Californians. Only 5% of the voluntary cutbacks were met, and according to an online newspaper, Climate Progress, out of the 440 local water districts, only 58 had implemented some sort of water restrictions.
Now that California’s drought is the worst in history, a new set of restrictions have been implemented. The newest restrictions include requiring campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water usage; directing the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models; banning the watering of ornamental grass on public street domains; and making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation, and enforcement actions by local water suppliers.
Understanding the drastic consequences of the drought members of the Foghorn have shown support for the action taken by Governor Brown, but we question why certain actions weren’t required earlier. Some of us were surprised to find out that farmers were not asked until now to provide detailed reports on their water use, especially because farmers actually utilize 80% of the water source, but only make up 2% of the economy. Other than the detailed reports, farmers are exempt from the water restrictions, and Governor Brown and other state officials state the fact that the agricultural industry has already taken a huge hit from the drought. Governor Brown further defends the exemption for farmers, stating in an interview with Time that “they’re not watering their lawns or taking long showers. They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America and a significant part of the world.”
No fines for a lack of compliance have been implemented, and state officials hope it won’t be necessary. However, due to the lack of success they faced when Governor Brown proposed a voluntary 20% cutback, the state board has full authority to impose fines if they begin to see water suppliers failing to meet reduction targets that will be announced in the upcoming weeks. However, to incentivise people to reduce water usage, water authorities will raise rates on heavy water users and find ways to reward water conservers, which has proved to be successful in the past. We at the Foghorn see this as a step in the right direction, and hope to see concrete positive results from the new restrictions.