Californians could face a fine of $500 a day under new mandatory water-saving rules adopted by state regulators on Tuesday that could go into effect by the end of the month.
The State Water Resources Control Board established rules which prohibit residents from watering lawns for 48 hours after a rainstorm or letting sprinklers run onto the sidewalk. It will be up to local authorities to decide on whether to enforce fines.
Though a winter storm recently brought a wave of heavy rain and snow in some regions, experts say weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable due to climate change. In mid-December, about 80% of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only about a third of the state was experiencing those conditions by the end of December.
The state's water systems were still under stress due to dry conditions in 2021 that caused many of the state water reservoirs to near-record lows. These rules come as voluntary water conservation initiatives spearheaded by Gov.Gavin Newsom failed to reduce 15 percent of water consumption compared to last year. California's water usage went down about 6 percent between the months of July and November.
Other restrictions placed by new water conservation rules prohibit washing cars with hoses lacking shut-off nozzles; using potable water to wash driveways, sidewalks, buildings, and patios, and for street cleaning or filling decorative fountains or lakes. The trees located in street mediums are some exceptions to the rules, which will take effect once an administrative review is completed.
California is no stranger to these restrictions. Similar water conservation rules were adopted during a five-year drought that ended in 2017, and some cities and local water districts made them permanent.
It is unclear how much water is expected to be saved with these rules.