California regulators approve water cutbacks

California regulators approve water cutbacks

[JURIST] California’s State Water Resources Control Board [official website] on Tuesday approved rules [press release, PDF; materials] that will limit how people, governments and businesses can use water during the state’s drought, promoting deep conservation efforts in the process. The rules include forcing cities to limit watering on public property and encouraging homeowners to let their lawns die. California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] was a strong supporter of the stringent regulations, arguing that water agencies should cut down urban water use by 25 percent from their 2013 level to help yield the water savings necessary during a four-year drought. It is unclear what penalties local agencies and the state water board will impose on those that don’t meet the water use targets. Moreover, the board lacks staff to supervise each of the hundreds of water agencies. Some agencies do not have the resources necessary to issue tickets to those who waste water or fail to meet the restrictions. Under the new rules, each city is required to cut water use by close to 36 percent compared with 2013 levels. This has created skepticism among local water departments who see the proposal as unrealistic since it could cause higher water bills and declining property values.

California’s water restriction issues have been a hot topic for several years now. On April 1, Brown issued Executive Order B-29-15 [text, PDF], which mandates water-use restrictions throughout the state and which will remain in effect through February 28, 2017. JURIST Guest Columnist Griffen Thorne, Student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, argued that the legal framework these restrictions establish could produce lasting effects [JURIST op-ed] in the state by incentivizing water reductions and innovation. The order also incentivizes investment in energy-efficient technology, in a step towards ensuring that future generations of Californians will have better access to water.