SACRAMENTO — In the face of a severe drought, the State Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency conservation plan Tuesday night that would cut urban water use by 25% — a historic first for the state.
After taking public comment for much of the afternoon, board members voted unanimously to adopt the regulations, Los Angeles Times reported.
“We’re in a massive drought unlike anything we’ve experienced,” said Felicia Marcus, the water board chairwoman.
California Gov. Jerry Brown mandated the cuts in an April 1 executive order. The water board scrambled to design and approve a reduction plan that could be put into effect before the summer, when water use traditionally spikes.
The plan will require more than 400 state water suppliers to cut water use 8% to 36% depending on how heavily their customers consume it. Water suppliers were placed in one of eight reduction tiers depending on their residents’ past water use.
Some suppliers can apply to be placed in a 4% reduction tier.
“Over the course of developing this plan, we received over 700 comments,” said Max Gomberg, the water board’s staff scientist. “Overall the issue that received the most comment was whether the conservation standard proposed was fair.”
According to figures released by the board Tuesday, Californians’ cumulative water savings since last summer totaled just 8.6% as of March — far less than the reduction ordered by Brown.
Traditionally, officials said, between 50% and 80% of residential water use during summer months occurs outdoors, and represents the biggest opportunity for savings.
“We are entering the summer months and that’s when things are critical,” Gomberg said.
The action comes 15 months after Brown urged a voluntary 20% reduction in water use in January 2014.
“We asked to do a voluntary 20% and almost no one did,” said Water Board Member Frances Spivy-Weber. “And that’s why we have mandatory … It’s the price for not seizing the day.”