NewsCalifornia Drought


Governor Gavin Newsom issues executive order to increase water conservation

Water Hose Spraying Water, Bakersfield (FILE)
Posted at 5:53 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 00:21:56-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — On Monday Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to put in place more rules regarding water conservation.

The governor ordered the state California State Water Resources Control Board to ban the watering of “non-functional” turf, such as decorative grass next to large industrial and commercial buildings. The ban would not include the lawns of homeowners or grass used for recreation, such as school fields, sports fields, and parks.

The Department of Water Resources estimates this ban alone will result in potential water savings of several hundred thousand acre-feet. An acre-foot of water serves the needs of approximately three households for a year.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” said Governor Newsom in a statement. “Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. Amid climate-driven extremes in weather, we must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life.”

Earlier this month, State water officials said they would only give 5% of requested water supplies to contractors of the State Water Project, which provides water for 27 million people and a swath of farmland. That's in addition to water for critical needs like bathing and drinking. The low allocation means people will be urged to conserve water by using less outside on landscaping and other activities.

The executive order includes several other provisions that will protect all water users:

  • Ensuring Vulnerable Communities Have Drinking Water
  • Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately
  • Safeguarding Groundwater Supplies
  • Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85 percent of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought
  • Streamlines permitting for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come
  • Protecting Vulnerable Fish And Wildlife
  • Expedites state agency approvals for necessary actions to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival
  • Preventing Illegal Water Diversions
  • Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring

Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors, issued the following statement in support of the order.

“This is a serious drought that requires serious action. We learned a lot from the last drought, in addition to the increased drought planning requirements and responsible preparation that were put in place, the Governor is wisely focusing on local shortage contingency plans with today’s Executive Order. Urban water agencies throughout the State have Water Shortage Contingency Plans that can be activated right away to ensure conservation and other actions consistent with their region’s unique circumstances. Managing through this drought requires each and every Californian to reduce their water usage. The Governor’s Order today recognizes the diversity of California communities and their water supply conditions. Ordering agencies to exercise their specific plans strikes that important balance of statewide needs and local action.”

However, some local Republican lawmakers disagree with this order from the governor. Assemblyman Vince Fong sent out a statement saying conservation is only a band-aid for the long-term drought crisis. He said the focus needs to be on more water infrastructure for groundwater storage.

“California faces its third consecutive year of drought. The Governor has yet to fund above groundwater storage despite a multi-billion dollar surplus. Conditions are dire. Conservation is another band aid to a long term state crisis," said Fong in a released statement. “The State has not planned adequately for drought years. The need for reliable and dependable water supply infrastructure and conveyance is paramount to public health, food production and economic viability. It is time to put our state on a better path with a stable and secure water supply by investing in more water infrastructure.”