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article imageParched California set to impose more limits on water usage

By Nathan Salant     Mar 17, 2015 in Environment
San Francisco - Additional restrictions on water usage in California are expected to be imposed this week in the face of a continuing drought that has seen rivers, lakes and reservoirs drying up statewide.
Regulators could decide as early as today to limit outdoor watering to two days per week, to require restaurants to stop serving water to customers unless requested and to require hotels to wait for guest requests before washing towels.
The limitations are part of a proposed state crackdown on water usage as California endures its fourth consecutive year of drought.
The proposal adds to measures imposed last year to limit outdoor watering — including $500 fines for violations — which are due to expire April 25.
But officials warn that common-sense conservation measures like these may not be enough if California’s climate is warming and rainfall totals continue to drop in the future.
“What we’re experiencing now, while draconian and maybe the worst we’ve ever had ... may not be as abnormal as we see it today,” Frances Spivy-Weber of the State Water Resources Control Board told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“I think it’s time to be thinking about what we should be doing in a climate-change California,” she said.
The water board is expected to vote today to impose the enhanced rules for 270 days with the possibility that they be made permanent, the newspaper said..
Many California businesses and homeowners seem resigned to the latter possibility, as hotel guests get used to having to request cleaning service, diners at hip San Francisco restaurants go without their usual sparkling or plain.
“I think it’s great that they put that out there,” said Andrea Osojnik of Los Angeles, who was staying at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis hotel for business and agreed to limit her laundry service.
“For them to change the sheets every night seems like a waste,” she said.
“I can’t see why any restaurant would be opposed to this,” agreed Miles Palliser, whose Corner Store restaurant in San Francisco already offered water only upon request.
“It’s going to save not only the environment but the water bill,” he said.
Restrictions on outdoor watering include a ban on watering down sidewalks and driveways, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle and using drinkable water in fountains.
Watering of lawns would be barred within 48 hours of a rainstorm and all local water jurisdictions that don’t already restrict water usage would be required to limit lawn watering to two days per week.
Local water agencies would be required to report conservation efforts to the water board under the new rules, which would take effect in April if approved today.
But most jurisdictions have been reluctant to impose fines, with agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area reporting that warnings issued since July had reduced water use by 10 percent.
The reduction, while substantial, still was less than the 20 percent cut Gov. Jerry Brown called for last year when he declared a drought emergency.
“The ability to issue fines can be an effective deterrent,” Max Gomberg, a water board scientists who helped write the regulations for this year and last.
“Moving from where we are today to where we need to be is probably going to take more,” Spivy-Weber told the newspaper.
With this year’s rainy season about to end with below-average rainfall, state officials have estimated that California needs 150 percent of normal rainfall to even begin starting to make up for years of drought.
The state’s largest reservoirs remain far below normal, and the usually dependable snow pack in mountain ranges at the Nevada border is less than 20 percent of normal, the newspaper said.
More about California, Water, Drought, water board, San Francisco
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