Newsom calls for more aggressive water conservation amid third year of drought

On the heels of the driest ever start to the year in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday issued a sweeping executive order calling on local water suppliers to implement more aggressive conservation measures as reservoirs dwindle and residents backslide in their efforts to cut back.

Specifically, the order requires that urban water suppliers activate “Level 2″ of their locally customized contingency plans, meaning they must prepare for a shortage of up to 20%. The order also introduces steps to address a frenzy of well drilling in California’s Central Valley and directs state regulators to consider a ban on watering decorative grasses at businesses and public properties, among other measures.

“Everything that we can do to save water now will help us later in the year,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California’s secretary for environmental protection. “Within the context of climate change, water scarcity has become the new normal. Water scarcity — and how we treat this precious resource — has to be baked into everything that we do.”

The announcement came even as a much-needed rainstorm made its landing in Southern California, providing some relief but falling far short of a drought-busting March miracle. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor update, issued Thursday, showed nearly all of California under severe or extreme drought conditions.

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