In a historically dry year, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Monday, March 28, ordered the state’s water regulatory agency to make it illegal to irrigate specific green spaces to save water resources.

According to CBS News, by signing an executive order, Newsom urged the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to implement “more aggressive” water conservation measures amid drought conditions that continue to worsen at an alarming rate.

According to a statement issued by the governor’s office, the order specifies that the ban would be placed on decorative spaces of businesses and institutions and would exempt green areas used for human recreation, including soccer fields and public parks. 

The Department of Water Resources estimates that the ban would save “several hundred thousand acre-feet” of water. “One acre-foot of water (1,233,482 liters) meets the needs of approximately three households for a year,” the statement said.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” said Democratic Governor Newsom.  

“Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. Amid climate-driven extremes in weather, we must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life,” he added in the release.

According to the governor’s office, the order also calls on local water suppliers to go beyond the corresponding “Tier 2” of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which is designed to prepare for water shortages of up to 20%.

At Level 2, local suppliers can limit the number of days residents can water their outdoor areas, but the governor is pushing for more ambitious actions.

Newsom’s order also includes provisions to:

  • Ensuring vulnerable communities have safe drinking water.
  • Preventing illegal water detours by expanding site inspections. 
  • Ensuring that proposed new wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure to safeguard groundwater supplies. 
  • Protect fish and wildlife where drought threatens their health and survival.

The governor included in his budget proposal $5.2 billion over three years to address the drought and, earlier this month, announced an additional $22.5 million to bolster the state’s response.

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