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California Is Rolling Back Its Water Restrictions

Illustration for article titled California Is Rolling Back Its Water Restrictions

The state of California has decided to roll back its years-old restrictions on water usage, adopting instead a system in which only regions with anticipated shortages will be required to conserve.

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The Water Resources Control Board voted on Wednesday to suspend the state’s mandatory 25 percent reduction in urban water use, opting to place the duty of water conservation in the hands of local communities.

The change is thanks to a relatively wet El Niño winter, which, despite falling short of the rainfall levels anticipated, did supply enough water to partially replenish Northern California’s reservoirs. Southern California, however, remains in pretty rough shape.

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Lest anyone be tempted to celebrate by opening up a fire hydrant, the New York Times reports that officials still don’t think the situation is good. It’s just not as apocalyptic:

“We are still in a drought, but we are no longer in the-worst-snow-pack-in-500-years drought,” said Felicia Marcus, the head of the state water board. “We had thought we are heading toward a cliff. We were worried we were in our own Australian millennial drought. We wanted to make sure people didn’t keep pouring water on their lawns with wild abandon.”

Governor Jerry Brown last year issued an executive order requiring Californians to reduce their use of potable water by 25 percent, and it worked: Residents tapered their usage dramatically by shortening their showers, flushing their toilets less often and replacing their lawns with rock gardens and drought-tolerant plants. Ideally, at least some of these habits will stick, regardless of the loosened requirements.

The new rules will go into effect on June 1, though regulators maintain the power to reinstate blanket-conservation policies if water usage goes through the roof, or if the rain from last winter proves to be an exception.

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Photo via AP.

Night blogger at Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

This is not good news. I’m a Californian born and bred. We have drought in our bones. Seriously. In our bones.

We do not leave the water on as we are washing dishes and walk away.

We do not leave the faucet on as we are brushing our teeth/shaving.

Some of us who grew up in the seventies and live alone don’t flush the toilet each time we use it. Sorry for the detail, but this is how vital it is.

Some people have replaced their lawns with vegetable gardens or less water-intensive foliage.

Water is life.

What is happening in both Northern and Southern California (Silicon Valley and Hollywood/LA) is immigration from the rest of the United States from places in which drought conditions scarcely exist if at all. And dammit, they want their green lawns, and to leave their faucets running, and establish verdant landscaping and so on and so on and so on.

In the seventies, California was super-environmentally progressive; small cars, solar panels, and water conservation were all part of the landscape. And we are losing our way in this. And it really makes me so sad.

There truly is something sacrosanct about the land here; the land that the Native Americans preserved for millennia. The redwoods; the forests; the rolling hills; the deserts; and the incredibly rich soil in which much of the nation’s produce is grown. Climate change has caused a drastic uptick in wildfires, and some places ran out of water to fight them. What we have managed to destroy and desecrate in this beautiful state over a mere half-century is amazing to me.

Silicon Valley? Was orchards and agricultural when I was a child. Lax zoning laws have meant that everything that was once earth has now been covered by highways, parking lots, office buildings, Starbucks, and smog.

I’m sorry for the rant, but we need to preserve this land. And we need to make an effort. Even if just for ourselves. To show that the earth upon which we live is important, is beautiful, and we need to be better guardians than that which we currently are.

Please keep mindful I wish the Water Control Board would say.

But, of course, they would be preaching to the choir. Those of us inclined to conserve already do. Those who do not give a whit about the deer, the squirrel, the bear, the coyote, the owl, the wolf will continue to live extravagantly.

I miss the way we used to be. I cannot imagine how indigenous peoples must feel.