California Agencies Crack Down on Water Use

Agencies all over California are cracking down on water use - or considering doing so -  as the state faces emergency drought situations after the driest winter in state history.

Up in Northern California, the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District board of directors on Monday night unanimously adopted the 50 percent mandatory cutbacks in an effort to maintain as much water as they can in drought-plagued Lake Mendocino.

That means Ukiah Valley residents, businesses and farmers must cut their dependence on the lake by half in March, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The move came after authorities measured an estimated 28,512 acre feet of water in the  lake, about 41.7 percent of capacity.

Folsom residents in the Sacramento Valley have already been ordered by the city council to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent.

And in Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley Water District's board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a 20 percent mandatory reduction in water use for the public - double what the agency first requested last month. Exactly how it would be enforced has not been decided.

"Probably the easiest way for most households is to cut down on your outdoor water use, which is half of most customers' water use," said Marty Grimes of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. "If you use only half you can already cut 25 percent."

The board in January asked water users to cut back 10 percent. But since the area has received little rain, the state has eliminated supplies of imported water to the region.

"If it rains we need at least eight inches to see enough runoff to make it to our reservoirs," said Joan Maher of the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The district's 20 percent reduction call is a recommendation -- it does not have the authority to issue fines. The board is recommending water companies they work with to implement mandatory restrictions, which could result in fines or higher water bills if customers do not conserve.

Also on Tuesday, the the East Bay Municipal Utility District board decided to exercise an option to buy up to 20,000 acre feet of water from the Placer County Water Agency. The district would spend $1.5 million to buy the water and another $6.5 million to pump in the water from near Sacramento, the Contra Costa Times reported.

On April 8, EBMUD is expected to decide whether to order rationing or stick with voluntary conservation. For now, customers are asked to cut back 10 percent.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz has barred restaurants from serving drinking water unless requested and Marin County residents are asked not to wash their cars or do so only at eco-friendly car washes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Other cities are taking a more voluntary approach.

In Southern California's Ventura, for example, residents were asked earlier this month to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 percent.

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