California’s “megadrought” is costing the state billions

Governor Jerry Brown of California issued mandatory water restrictions in an executive order Apr. 1, 2015. The record-low snowfalls in winter 2015 have caused the four-year drought in California to reach near-crisis status. NASA projects that California water reservoirs could run dry in a year, and ground water supplies are dwindling.

The executive order set a 25 percent reduction on 90 percent of the local water supply agencies. The agencies are required to set their own restrictions and make sure citizens are compliant. These water usage cutbacks would affect homeowners, farms, businesses and maintenance of cemeteries and golf courses. It excluded large farms that obtain water from non-local water agencies, but large farm owners will still need to provide detailed reports of water usage so the state can be aware of the misuse of water resources.

Failure to comply with the executive order can lead to a $500 fine for individuals and up to $10,000 fine for water agencies.

“People should realize we are in a new era. The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past,” Brown said.

Citizens are encouraged to save water by replacing grass lawns with drought tolerant landscaping, ceasing to fill pools and ponds and refraining from washing their cars. The government is providing rebates for residents who replace old toilets and dishwashers with water-efficient ones.

In an Apr. 4 story, “The New York Times” reported that Cowan Heights homeowners are unwilling to pay the bills to water their lawns and fill pools and koi ponds because of increased water rates. However, in Compton, Cal. residents are embracing their brown lawns.

“Just because you can afford to use something doesn’t mean you should. We are all in this together. We all have to make sure we consume less,” said Mayor Aja Brown of Compton.

The cut in water usage is illustrating the economic divide in California. “The New York Times” reports that the daily water consumption rate for a person in Cowan Heights to be 572.4 gallons. In Compton, the per person water consumption was 63.6 gallons per day.

Lower income communities like Compton already ration water. The state is encouraging the biggest water users to “bear the brunt” of the 25 percent cut in water consumption by having higher income communities, like Cowan Heights, cut water usage by 36 percent and lower income communities by 8 percent.

Science Advances published a recent study linking the drought to climate change and stated that the southwest United States has a 50 percent chance of being stuck in a “megadrought,” which is a drought lasting longer than two decades.

Some suggested solutions to the water crisis include desalination plants and upgrades to current irrigation methods for agriculture, both of which are expensive. Desalination plants cost close to a billion dollars, and switching from flood irrigation to drip irrigation cost around one million dollars per farm.

With high costs and resident pushback in mind, the state legislator is expected to pen and release an updated plan for conservation at the start of May 2015.

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Brianna Steiert

Brianna Steiert is a senior Oxbridge Molecular Biology major and mathematics minor. She serves as Features and Managing editors for the Hilltop Monitor.

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