California's Unprecedented Water Restrictions Show Just How Bad Drought Is

mbg Contributor By Emi Boscamp
mbg Contributor
Emi Boscamp is the former News Editor at mindbodygreen. She received a BA in English and minors in Spanish and Art History from Cornell University.

California's looking pretty parched these days. So parched, in fact, that Governor Jerry Brown had to institute California's first-ever statewide mandatory water restrictions on Wednesday. Despite measures taken once Brown proclaimed a drought state of emergency last year, the state is still headed into its fourth year of drought.

Apparently, the situation calls for even more drastic measures.

The restrictions will affect watering gardens, lawns, cars, streets, sidewalks, and even yourself (yes, showers).

"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action," said Brown at a news conference in an extremely arid part of the Sierra Nevada — which is normally a major source of water for the state, but now has a snowpack at its lowest level on record.

Here are some of the new measures:

  • Reduce the use of the state's 400 local water supply agencies (which serve 90% of California residents) by 25%
  • Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments
  • Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models
  • Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use
  • Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used
  • Ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians

Cuts will vary from community to community, given that per capita water use reduction has been better in some areas than others, but in general, the state will be tightly monitoring compliance with the new guidelines. And if they are violated, the order authorizes water suppliers to penalize offenders.

And, of course, it's not as simple as flipping some water-supply switch. Water is so ingrained in the state's identity (and therefore economy) — from lush gardens in Los Angeles to golf courses in Palm Springs, and vast farmland throughout the Central Valley.

"People should realize we are in a new era," said Brown. "The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past."

(h/t The New York Times)

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