Governor Brown Issues Drought Mandates

By Sheryl Hamlin

On January 17, salve 2014, pharmacy Governor Brown declared a “Drought State of Emergency” by issuing an emergency proclamation, viagra order whose entire text may be read here. In December 2013, an inter-agency drought task force was formed as well as a website to inform citizens about best practices for saving water. Also in 2013, Brown issued an Executive Order to streamline water transfers to help California’s farms.

Subsequently twelve more months pass without substantial rain or snow, groundwater conditions have worsened and Governor Brown directs the first ever mandatory statewide water reductions. The Executive Order includes four areas: 1) Save Water, 2) Increase Enforcement, 3) Invest in New Technologies and 4) Streamline Government Response. In his press release, Governor Brown said this was the longest Executive Order he had seen. The full text can be read here.

The specter presented in the preamble of this Executive Order is the realization that the drought could last into 2016 and beyond.  The Executive Order gives the State Water Resources Control Board authorization to impose mandatory 25% cuts in water usage. The State Water Resources Control Board has responded rapidly with a water portal which should be bookmarked by every agency and citizen. There will be monthly urban conservation water reporting with specific data required for the reporting.

The goal is 50 million square feet of lawns and ornamental turf to be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping. Many residents did respond to the 2014 Executive Order such as the house in the picture below with not only the front yard but the sidewalk median becoming a vision of colorful drought tolerant plants. According to the owner, the water usage has diminished substantially. And, it is beautiful and low maintenance, requiring only occasional pruning.










The Executive Order speaks directly about the use of potable and non-potable water. Item 6 states that no potable water is to be used on public street median. Item 5 states that existing commercial, industrial and institutional property such as cemeteries and universities will meet targets stated in the order. Item 7 is particularly important for new development.  


How can such a mandate realistically be enforced? What is to prohibit a homeowner or building owner from installing a sprinkler system after the house is installed? Such issues relate to enforcement, which was the obvious question resulting from the new Executive Order.

Last month, the city of Santa Paula approved modifications to the Limoneira East Area 1 Development Agreement regarding the use of non-potable water. Originally, the plan was to include dual piping throughout the property. Evidently the costs are prohibitive for the purple piping, so Limoneira was granted an exclusion by the city. The paragraph below reflects the new conditions; however, this condition in the Development Agreement appears to conflict with Brown’s Executive Order items 5 and potentially item 7. Note too that there are no plans for Santa Paula’s Waste Water Treatment Facility to produce recycled water as suggested in this Development Agreement. The new paragraph from the Limoneira Development agreement with the City of Santa Paula is listed below:


On the same day that Governor Brown issued the sweeping Executive Order on Drought Mandates, he gave an insightful interview to PBS. Listen and watch here. Three questions are worth noting. The interviewer asked the Governor what took so long to arrive at this Executive Order? Governor Brown stated that California has 30 million people with many water districts and citizens who worked together on this plan. It was not an edict but a consensus. Brown said that California has to get used to a different world. Secondly, Brown was asked about the farmers, to which he responded that the farmers have already taken a huge share of the water burden, losing crops and millions of dollars and less water deliveries due to Federal environmental issues. Farms will be asked for agricultural information on how they manage groundwater. As to specific industries, such as almonds or fracking, Brown said that it is not up to the government “to pick winners and losers”. Interestingly he said that Californians drove 332 billion miles last year using 18 billion gallons of gas and diesel. If we don’t get the oil out of our lands, it will just come from elsewhere, said Brown. This interview shows the pragmatic side of Governor Brown for which he is famous.

As for enforcement, the Executive Order speaks only to Local Water agencies, but there has not yet been a comprehensive set of best practices for enforcement. The State has suggested that pricing should be used immediately as a deterrent to “influence demand”.

Streamlining California’s response to water infrastructure projects will also be a major challenge, particularly when many of the challenges to water projects are outside of the control of the State and are either environmental or federal laws. However, in Ventura, state regulations about salinity are impeding Oxnard’s use of the Calleguas Water District’s brine line by the new Oxnard Water Recycling Facility. Ideally, the State Water Resources Control Board will be able to provide timely adjudication assistance.

The “new technologies” aspect of the Executive Order holds promise as improvements in water systems are developing around the globe. Not only do these technologies provide water, but they provide jobs and investment opportunities.

A big storm could bring some respite, but with population increases suggested for California, these drought measures will persist because there is not enough water to support the per capita water usage of the 20th century into the 21st century. The State of California projected a population of 60 million by 2050 in 2007, but the good news is that one agency says the population growth has slowed and California will not reach 50 million until 2046, which is about 15 million less than that forecast by the Department of Finance in 2007. In fact, the California Department of Finance is now predicting 52.6 million by 2060, so the red line below looks more like the USC study.


Californians must internalize the seriousness of this problem and continue the dialogue.


Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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Citizen Reporter
6 years ago

Good analysis. But, why is no one asking Moonbeam why we are being ordered to cut 25% while immigrants are allowed to illegally enter in huge number and many new homes are being built?