California Governor Gavin Newsom is asking Californians to cut back water consumption by 15% as drought conditions continue to intensify across the state.
As high temperatures and lack of precipitation continue throughout the remainder of summer into fall, Newsom urges residents to cut water usage voluntarily.
“We’re hopeful that people will take that mindset they brought into the last drought and extend that forward with a 15% voluntary reduction, not only on residences but industrial, commercial operations, and agricultural operations,” Newsom said.
Gov. Newsom also expanded the state’s drought state of emergency for 50 California counties, around 42% of the state’s population.
At a press conference announcing the voluntary reduction, Newsom stood in front of Lopez Lake, a reservoir at less than 35% capacity. He encouraged people to focus on “common sense” measures, including fixing water leaks, taking shorter showers, and watering lawns less.
Newsom emphasized that the reduction is strictly voluntary. He maintained that California isn’t a “nanny state.”
“We’re not trying to be oppressive, again these are voluntary standards.”
The governor and his administration have pushed back against mandated water restrictions and issuing a state of emergency for all of California.
With a recall election two months away, Newsom has held off on declaring a whole-state emergency as drought spreads across the state.
The governor has yet to push for more drastic action, explaining that water availability and resources vary in different parts of the state. Newsom said that not all 58 of California’s counties are in a water emergency.
More cuts loom
Instead, the governor’s regional order provides a way for the State Water Resources Control Board to be responsible for issuing unpopular water restrictions.
The regional declaration will also make it easier for different counties to coordinate water supply with the state. It also reduces some limiting environmental regulations.
The State Water Board already issued curtailment notices to water rights holders in the Russian River watershed earlier this month. Newsom warned rights holders about water unavailability in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Scott River basins.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, said that Newsom’s response is “too little, too late.”
Barrigan-Parrilla said that she and the group warned the state that by the end of 2020 about the pending drought. She said that Newsom has been given repeated “bad advice” by state officials.
“They let too much of the water out of the system for industrial agriculture users,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
“Our water resources and public trust resources like salmon fisheries have been squandered for almonds and other unsustainable crops.”
As water supplies continue to dwindle in California during an extremely dry year, below average snowpack and precipitation in the Sierra Nevada range have pushed many areas of the state into drought.
Newsom released his original emergency order on April 21 for Sonoma and Mendocino counties. He added 39 more counties on May 10, followed by nine more recently.
A voluntary 15% statewide water reduction would save approximately 850,000 acre-feet of water. According to the governor’s office, the amount saved is enough to supply 1.7 million households per year.
State water officials expect more restrictions across the state as the drought worsens.