By Emiliy Hoeven, CalMatters
Get ready for a summer of brown lawns, water cops and even public shaming.
The stakes of California’s devastating drought got a lot higher on Tuesday, when state water officials announced that residents and businesses used nearly 19% more water in March than they did two years ago, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.
The massive increase represents California’s highest level of water use since 2015 — and is a sharp rebuke of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plea last year that Californians voluntarily slash their water use by 15%.
The backsliding increases pressure on Newsom to order mandatory statewide water restrictions — a step he appears reluctant to take, instead preferring to leave most of the details to local governments. And, as some Californians react with fury to unprecedented local restrictions, one understands why Newsom may be loath to issue top-down orders ahead of the June 7 primary election.
- Michael McNutt, a spokesperson for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves wealthy enclaves west of Los Angeles: “People freaked out. It was insane. I felt terrible for the front-office staff, which are doing a tremendous job for us. Irritated, pissed-off people, all that stuff.”
Indeed, about 6 million Southern Californians will face never-before-seen water restrictions next month. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power unveiled its game plan to achieve the required cuts: Nearly 4 million people will be limited to watering their lawns twice a week for eight minutes. Las Virgenes Municipal Water District may limit outdoor watering to just once a week.
- Santa Clara County, which saw its water use increase by 30% in March compared to the same point in 2019, wants to hire “water cops” for the first time in its history to issue fines of as much as $500 to residents who waste water, the Mercury News reports.
- And the East Bay Municipal Utility District will make public the names, home addresses and water use data of customers who violate its restrictions after voting last month to immediately adopt an excessive water use penalty ordinance.