California : “We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen and, more important, we have no idea when it will end.”
California’s State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus has issued a blunt warning to water users throughout the state that mandatory water restrictions are on the way.
“This drought’s impacts are being felt by communities all over California. Fields are fallowed; communities are running out of water, fish and wildlife will be devastated. The least that urban Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve more, now, to avoid far more harsh restrictions, if the drought lasts into the future. These regulations are meant to spark awareness of the seriousness of the situation, and could be expanded if the drought wears on and people do not act.”
Although Governor Brown called on all Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20% back in April, new figures show that water use has gone up 1%, not down.
The State Water Board decision directs water authorities throughout the state to implement their Water Shortage Contingency Plans which will impose restrictions on outdoor water use and fines of up to $500/day for non-compliance.
The Desert Water Agency, which covers Palm Springs and Cathedral City, has announced its plan will take effect from August 1. Restrictions include: a ban on washing down of all outdoor hard surfaces, including driveways and buildings, prohibiting landscape irrigation between 10am and 5pm, and no running water to be used during car washing, except for rinsing. Restaurant customers can be only be served water if they request it.
Although these restrictions will no doubt concern many Californians, they still seem surprisingly lenient compared to the water restrictions that are frequently imposed in Australia and also the UK, where complete hosepipe bans have become increasingly frequent during dry summers.
Many Australian cities had strict water saving measures for several years until 2012, including: complete bans on hard surface and car washing (except with a bucket); that all fixed irrigation had to be by drip-emitters only; an allowance of only 4 short periods of hand watering per week; and the requirement that all hose nozzles must have a shut-off trigger. In some towns, the only water that was allowed outside was grey water collected in a bucket from the shower or bath and you could be fined for even having a hose connected to a tap.
2013 set a new record in California for the lowest rainfall ever. There are grave concerns that without water saving measures upstream, water in the Delta, which provides fresh drinking water to most of the San Francisco Bay area, will become too saline for either human consumption or to sustain marine life.