Calls for water conservation in Calif. grow louder
U.S. Water News Online
SACRAMENTO — Californians are being asked to water their lawns less, plant native shrubs and install more-efficient irrigation systems to stave off water shortages and mandatory rationing amid growing worries about a possible long-term drought.
The increasingly urgent call to conserve water comes as state officials said the Sierra snowpack, a key source of the state's water supply, has fallen about one-third below normal levels.
"We need to recognize that we're in a water shortage and begin to act accordingly," state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said.
While officials say it's too early to impose rationing, cities and water districts around California are preparing plans for mandatory conservation to deal with a possible drought.
In Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District, which serves 18 million people, recently raised its water rates by 14 percent and has cut deliveries to farmers by nearly a third. It also launched a campaign urging reductions in outdoor watering by a day.
"We're in a pretty painful water supply picture," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the district's general manager. "We don't want to institute rationing, but if this continues, you will see us take a look at that next year."
Residents of Long Beach aren't allowed to run fountains, and it's illegal for restaurants to serve customers a glass of water unless they ask for it. New housing and retail developments in Riverside County are on hold because the necessary water supplies cannot be guaranteed.
In the Coachella Valley, which includes the sprawling resort communities around Palm Springs, water managers have proposed a tiered water pricing system. The idea is to charge customers who use more than their fair share of water, said Mark Beuhler, assistant general manager of the Coachella Valley Water District, which supplies water to 130 golf courses and about 100,000 homes.
"We saw the writing on the wall," Beuhler said. "It is probably the most single effective thing we can do to achieve conservation."
The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves 1.3 million customers, is considering rationing because its water supply has been the worst in 17 years. Its board is scheduled to consider a drought management program May 13.
"Some of the things that could happen are not using fountains, requiring use of a shut-off nozzle in the hose at your house, or restrictions on when people can water their lawns," said district spokesman Jeff Becerra.
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