Californians Asked to Reduce Water Use

Newsom's request anticipates reservoirs being low at the first of the year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 8, 2021 4:35 PM CDT
Californians Asked to Reduce Water Use
California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a news conference in April in the parched basin of Lake Mendocino in Ukiah.   (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP, File)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday asked California's people and businesses to voluntarily cut how much water they use by 15%, as the western US weathers a drought that is rapidly emptying reservoirs relied on for agriculture, drinking water, and fish habitat. Newsom's request is not an order, the AP reports, but it demonstrates the growing challenges of a drought that will only worsen through the summer and fall and is tied to recent heat waves. Temperatures in parts of the region are spiking this week but are less intense than the record heat that may have caused hundreds of deaths in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia a week ago. The voluntary water conservation would include measures such as taking shorter showers, running dishwashers only when they are full, and reducing the frequency of watering lawns. "Given how low the reservoirs are going to be at the start of next year, the governor wanted to issue the voluntary call in the event that next year is also dry," said the director of the state Department of Water Resources.

Newsom added nine counties to an emergency drought proclamation that now covers 50 of the state's 58 counties. Large cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, are not included under the emergency proclamation. But Newsom is still asking people who live in heavily populated areas to reduce their water consumption, because they rely on rivers and reservoirs in drought-stricken areas for much of their supply. California's 2016 drought depleted groundwater supplies and changed how water is used, with many people and businesses ripping out landscaping and replacing it with more drought-tolerant plants. Compared to before the previous drought, urban water usage in California is down an average of 16%. But scientists say this drought is already hotter and drier than the previous one, accelerating the impact on people and the environment. Some local water agencies have already implemented mandatory water restrictions.

(More California drought stories.)

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