by Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Californians may face a fine of up to $500 for watering non-functional turf for violating the emergency water conservation regulation approved unanimously by the California Water Resources Control Board Tuesday amid a historic drought. 

The regulation is in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued on March 28 that called for more aggressive conservation by local water agencies across the state. The state water board expects to take effect in June. 

“California is facing a drought crisis and every local water agency and Californian needs to step up on conservation efforts. I am hopeful the measures enacted by the State Water Board will lead to a reduction in water use across the state. These conservation measures are increasingly important as we enter the summer months. I’m asking all Californians to step up because every single drop counts.”

The new regulation bans irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties such as grass in front of or next to large industrial or commercial buildings. The ban does not include watering turf that is used for recreation or other community purposes, water used at residences, or water to maintain trees. 

The regulation also requires all urban water suppliers to implement conservation actions under Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, meant to address up to a 20 percent shortage of water supplies. Some of the actions include limiting outdoor irrigation on certain days or hours, increasing patrol to identify water waste, enforcing water prohibitions, increase communication about water conservation. 

In March 2022, the state’s urban retail water suppliers reported average water use statewide that was nearly 19% greater than in March 2020, lowering the state’s cumulative water savings since July 2021 to 3.7%

“The severity of this drought requires all Californians to save water in every possible way,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “The regulation compels water systems and local authorities to implement a range of additional critical conservation measures as we enter the hot and dry summer months.”

Authorities say the regulation requires urban water suppliers to fast-track supply and demand assessments to plan for potential dry conditions in addition to Level 2 actions. About half of the state’s 436 water suppliers have not activated Level 2 and 36 have not submitted drought plans, according to the water authority. 

Officials said banning watering of decorative lawns would save between 156,000 acre-feet and 260,000 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of water used by 780,000 households in a year.

The state is calling on Californians to follow the following water conservation practices. 

  • Cut back on outdoor water. Officials say limiting water by even just one day a week can save up to 20% more water. 
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Take showers instead of baths, which use up to 2.5 times the amount of water as a shower.
  • Using a broom instead of a hose to clean outdoor areas.
  • Washing full loads of clothes to save 15-45 gallons of water per load.

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