New Drought Plan Targets Water Squanderers

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A revised but still tentative drought plan for California will ease water cuts for some areas but increase reduction targets in communities that consume the most water.
     The State Water Resources Control Board, is charged with enforcing Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order that Californians must reduce urban water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels by February, issued a revised plan for the state’s first mandatory water cuts on Saturday.
     The preliminary framework for the regulations, issued this month, divided local water agencies into four tiers, imposing a 10 percent conservation standard on those that use less water per capita and a 35 percent standard on those that use the most.
     The water board received 250 comments as a result, many of which were complaints from water districts that felt the cuts were unfair.
     The revised regulation expands the range of required cuts from four categories to nine and assigns water districts to those tiers based on three months of water use last summer rather than the previously used data from September 2014.
     This way, agencies with similar levels of consumption would not fall into tiers with vastly different curtailment standards, regulators said.
     Communities with a track record of saving water were given lower conservation targets, while cities that use the most water were given bigger cuts. Urban water suppliers are now required to cut from 8 percent to 36 percent of their water use, depending on which tier they land in.
     Water suppliers that recorded the lowest residential per-capita water use last summer – including San Francisco, Compton and Santa Cruz – will face trims of only 8 percent.
     Communities with the highest per-capita water use during July, August and September last year – including Beverly Hills, Bakersfield and Modesto – will have to slash their consumption by 36 percent.
     The revised proposal would allow urban districts in Southern California that deliver more than 20 percent of their supplies to agriculture to deduct the farm water from their overall use statistics, which would place them in a less-stringent tier.
     It is up to individual water agencies to ensure that the communities they serve meet their required deductions. The water board proposed fining agencies up to $10,000 a day for noncompliance.
     The draft regulation is expected to be refined based on comments the water board receives, and a Notice of Proposed Emergency Rulemaking will be released on April 28 for public comment.
     In many communities, more than half – and sometimes up to 80 percent – of residential water use is for outdoor irrigation during the summer, officials said.
     With summer right around the corner, immediate action is essential, so the water board will begin assessing compliance in mid-July, state officials said.
     Regulators estimate that the overall 25 percent statewide reduction in urban water use would amount to 1.3 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, equivalent to as much water as is in Lake Oroville, one of California’s largest reservoirs.

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