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.
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.
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.
Photo via AP.