May 18, 2016 brought a surprising reversal of the mandatory statewide 25% urban water use reduction in California. The new rules will take place on June 1st. Struggling through the 5th year of one of the worst droughts in California’s recent history, the new policy was an unexpected change after winter storms fell short of expected totals, especially in Southern California.
The good news is that according to a new survey shared by National Geographic, the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada is up to almost its average: "California's five-year drought isn't over yet, but the state's snowpack now stands at 97 percent of its historical average, according to a measurement taken today in the Sierra Nevada.”
However the report also confirms the need for future conservation: "The state has lost so much water over the past several years that it will take more than this season to refill aquifers and reservoirs, a fact that may prompt additional conservation measures. Further, the state is expected to see a rising population—and therefore more water demand—as well as increased climate uncertainty in the future.”
Last year, Gov. Brown ordered a 25% cut in water usage statewide, while some communities with the highest use per-capita, were ordered to make up to a 36% cut. Californians did overall a great job cutting usage by an average of 24 percent compared to 2013 levels.
However, some worry the overall suspension of restrictions sends the wrong message that the drought is over and people will go back to wasting water which will lead to statewide restrictions being re-instated. Hopefully people will make it a lifestyle change like they have in Australia: "After a decade-long drought devastated parts of Australia, governments, farmers, businesses, and citizens got even more serious about saving water. The result is that South Australians use four to five times less water per capita than Californians. “
The move to suspend restrictions statewide comes with new rules empowering regional water districts to make their own restrictions based on water supply. This makes sense because the state’s drought levels vary largely between northern and southern California: "The state has long struggled to find ways to get water in the north to the people in the south. The state’s reservoir levels reflect the geographical disparity of El Niño. The state’s two largest and most important reservoirs, Shasta Lake and Oroville Lake, are both above their historical averages for this time of year. But reservoirs farther south, like New Melones Lake and Castaic Lake, remain far below average."
Although state water regulations have been suspended, the state made it permanently forbidden to wash a car without a shut-off valve, watering of street medians, and hosing down driveways and sidewalks.
Agricultural restrictions are still in place and abide by a different set of rules. California agriculture uses the most of state’s water supply. Their restrictions were also based on seniority and will adjust as more water becomes available.
Possible other sources of relief would come from new technology and a better infrastructure. Water catchment systems are also proving beneficial. Landscaping irrigation systems with Smart Meters are a great investment for everyone from homeowners to commercial property owners and do an incredible job of watering only when truly needed.
Our experts at Pacific Vista Landscape Services are great at saving water! We have the latest in water saving irrigation systems and Smart Meters! Install a water saving system for your property and be proactive with helping our wonderful state save water while you also save money! It's a win win!