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Californians likely to see water conservation mandates take effect in June

Gov. Gavin Newsom and several other officials highlighted the severity of the state’s ongoing drought.

Published: May 17, 2022 8:37pm

Updated: May 18, 2022 12:10am

(The Center Square) -

Starting next month, all Californians will likely be under some form of local mandate related to water conservation as the state responds to intensifying drought conditions, officials said Tuesday.

Speaking from a water recycling facility in Los Angeles County, Gov. Gavin Newsom and several other officials highlighted the severity of the state’s ongoing drought. California experienced the driest January, February and March on record, officials said, noting growing evidence that this drought is a continuation of the previous 2012-2015 drought.

As a result of the intensifying drought, Newsom penned an executive order in March that called on local agencies to move to Level 2 in their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which implements conservation measures to prepare for a water shortage of up to 20%.

Last week, the state’s Water Board released a draft of its emergency water conservation regulations, which would require local suppliers to take Level 2 conservation actions. These actions include limiting outdoor watering to certain days or hours and enforcing prohibitions on water use. The board’s regulations also include a ban on the irrigation of water not used for recreation purposes, including the decorative grass outside of industrial or commercial buildings.

The board is set to consider these regulations next week. If adopted, all of California will be under some form of mandate by June 10, Newsom said during a news conference on Tuesday.

Newsom, alongside other officials, also highlighted Tuesday a water recycling pilot project that, at full scale, could produce 150 million gallons of water every day – enough to serve 500,000 homes, officials estimate. However, the governor noted Friday that they hope the project will be at “full scale” by 2030.

Once the project is fully operational, the water recycling facility will be “one of the largest purification facilities in the world,” Deven Upadhyay, executive officer and assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said Tuesday. He noted that the facility has impacts across the western United States as well, as it will reduce the state’s reliance on Colorado River water and has support from officials in Arizona and Nevada.

Newsom called the project “a profoundly important project for the state’s future.”

“If they’re successful scaling this water recycling project at the scale they’re proposing, there’ll have never been a project like this in U.S. history,” Newsom said.

While officials praised the project’s innovation and its potential to be a sustainable investment in water supply for years to come, they also called on Californians to reduce water usage as the state navigates the extreme drought.

In March, water usage rose dramatically, increasing 18.9% in March 2022 compared to March 2020 – representing the most water Californians have used in March since the previous drought in 2015, the Associated Press reported. Despite these figures, officials still praised Californians for their efforts to conserve water while asking all residents to continue to do their part.

“We are starting to see these decadal-long dry periods that are going to challenge our ability to manage water supplies for people, for farms and for the environment,” Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said Tuesday. “All Californians need to heed the call to conserve.”

Newsom’s revised budget proposal, if approved by the Legislature, includes $7.2 billion to address drought conditions and develop medium and long-term solutions, the governor said Friday.

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