As a dry summer looms, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered water suppliers across California to step up their local drought responses, but fell short of requiring water rationing or setting a statewide conservation target.
Despite pressure from experts urging a strong mandate, the order leaves the exact conservation measures up to the urban water providers and major water wholesalers that supply the vast majority of Californians. It does not affect agricultural water providers, or the small water systems that are especially vulnerable to drought.
Newsom also ordered state water regulators to consider banning irrigation of decorative lawns at businesses and other institutions.
California’s water watchers said that the order wasn’t enough.
“I would have liked to see a more directed statewide mandate that would have taken into consideration regional per capita water-use levels,” said Newsha Ajami, chief strategy officer for research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “However, I am glad to see he is initiating efforts to curb outdoor water use and banning non-functional turf.”
Water systems, however, applauded Newsom for leaving water conservation up to local agencies.
“The Governor’s Order today recognizes the diversity of California communities and their water supply conditions,” Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors association of public water agencies, said in a statement. “Ordering agencies to exercise their specific plans strikes that important balance of statewide needs and local action.”
Under the order, which will require emergency regulations that are expected to take effect mid-June, local water suppliers must act as if their water supplies have dipped by at least 10 to 20%.