California is in the midst of a serious drought. About as serious as it gets. Most areas of the state are suffering the top two tiers of drought intensity – D3 and D4, “extreme drought” and “exceptional drought” – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Back in January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California, and he implored residents to cut back on their water use by 20 percent. It is now six months later and a survey by the State Water Resources Control Board has found that water use has declined by only 5 percent.
Today, the board is expected to issue mandatory water restrictions for the entire state – the first in its history. Such restrictions would prohibit excessive watering, hosing down sidewalks and streets, and washing one’s car without a shutoff nozzle. Those who ignore the restrictions will be penalized by a fine of up to $500. Tougher restrictions may be enforced if these prove to be too lenient.
Felicia Marcus, of the Water Resources Control Board, says a major problem is that Californians don’t realize how bad the drought really is. “It is a mistake to think that they are not at risk,” she said last week. “What these regulations propose is not that everyone kill off their lawns, but that at a minimum, people don’t over-water.”
These restrictions come at a time when the waters of Lake Mead are at their lowest level in its history. A primary source of fresh water for 20 million Americans living in the southwest, it has not been at its maximum capacity since 1983. It provides 90 percent of the hydration for Las Vegas and has been steadily drying up over the last ten years.