By KYLE ITO
Over the past four years, California has witnessed its worst drought in history. On Wednesday, April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water use reductions for the first time in the state’s history. This move came just weeks after Jay Famiglietti, NASA’s top hydrologist and UC Irvine professor, stated that California had only a year’s worth of water supply left in its reservoirs. Brown ordered the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to impose a 25% reduction on California’s local water supply agencies. These agencies are responsible for cutting down and monitoring water usage. The cutbacks on water usage affect homeowners, farms and businesses, and also maintenance of golf courses and cemeteries. Californians are, as a result, cutting down on shower duration, car washes and the watering of lawns and gardens. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a single Californian currently uses about 181 gallons of water each day. Since the state had difficulty reaching the 20% reduction goal Brown set in January 2014, measures such as fines could be enforced to ensure compliance this time around.
This past winter, California experienced record-low snowfalls. California’s snowpack is critical to the water system. Water from the snow is stored in the winter and released during the summer. The shortage of snow, and therefore of water, hinders farming production and makes everyday tasks for people difficult. When addressing the drought, House Majority Leader and California Republican Kevin McCarthy said, “The current drought in California is devastating. Today’s order from the governor should not only alarm Californians, but the entire nation should take notice that the most productive agriculture state in the country has entered uncharted territory.” About 98% of California is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, and 41% is categorized as in an exceptional drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
On March 17th, 2015, SWRCB adopted an “expanded drought-related emergency regulation to ensure water suppliers, their customers and state residents increase water conservation in urban settings.” One of its prohibitions prevents restaurants and food establishments from providing water to customers without their request beforehand. The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) has kicked off a campaign promoting the reduction of water usage outdoors, which can account for 60% of residential water use. IRWD offers ways to save water and money with tips on their website, at http://www.irwd.com.