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California Governor Issues 1st-Ever Statewide Mandatory Water Restrictions

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California Governor Jerry Brown with Frank Gehrke, state chief of snow surveys, in a meadow that usually has four to five feet of snow. Brown announced statewide mandatory water reductions at the site.
Kirk Siegler, NPR News
California Governor Jerry Brown with Frank Gehrke, state chief of snow surveys, in a meadow that usually has four to five feet of snow. Brown announced statewide mandatory water reductions at the site.

Gov. Jerry Brown instituted California's first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions on Wednesday, as the state endures its fourth year of drought.

"This historic drought demands unprecedented action," Brown said, mandating several new conservation measures:

  • A reduction in water use by 25 percent for California cities and towns.
  • New pricing structures by local water agencies to encourage conservation.
  • Replacement of 50 million square feet of lawns throughout California with "drought tolerant landscaping."
  • Rebates for water-efficient appliances.
  • New reporting guidelines for agricultural water users.

The order will also require cemeteries, golf courses and other "large landscapes" to reduce water consumption; place new irrigation standards on new homes and developments; and incentivize new technologies to make the state more water-efficient.

Brown announced the new measures in a dramatic scene: "Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be 5 feet of snow," he said at a press conference in an extremely dry part of the Sierra Nevada. The region is usually a major source of water for the state but now has a snowpack that is at the lowest level on record, as member station KPCC reports.

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Brown's office estimates that the 25 percent reduction mandate for California cities alone should save the state 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months.

Last year, Brown declared a drought state of emergency, and just a few days ago, he signed a $1.1 billion emergency drought relief bill.

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