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California approves new emergency water wasting rules

Photo by Kseniia Ilinykh on Unsplash

California approved new emergency water-wasting prohibitions this week amid a continued drought, despite water conservation efforts in Northern California.

James Nachbaur is with the California State Water Board. He says the new rules pertain to wasteful outdoor water use.

“These range from things like washing impervious surfaces with water when you could use a broom,” he says. “It also prohibits wasteful uses like irrigating your lawn during a rainstorm or immediately before or after its raining.”

The rules come as California anticipates a dry January. The southern part of the state also failed to meet voluntary water conservation levels, despite efforts from Northern California. The North Coast saved almost 26% more water this November compared to the same time last year. But Southern California lagged behind these numbers, with one region even using .08% more water than the year before. Nachbaur says recent storms have not alleviated the drought.

“If we get a lot more rain and snow over the next few months we will be in a really good place,” he says. “However, it might be pretty dry. In 2013, for example, it was relatively dry after this time of year. And so the reason these prohibitions make sense now is that we need to be prepared.”

The prohibitions will be enforced by local water agencies, who in the past, have taken action by providing information, asking businesses to assess their water use and, in extreme cases, imposing fines of up to $500. The water prohibitions go into effect on Jan. 15 and could last up to a year.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.