California Stiffens Water Regulations Amid Devastating Drought

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California Stiffens Water Regulations Amid Devastating Drought

'No amount of money, no amount of political posturing, no display of military might, no act of Congress, no amount of chemicals, no amount of whistling by the graveyard can bring more water.'

California's drought will require drastic action to stave off immediate and long-term effects, officials said. (Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr/cc)

As California approaches the end of a disappointing rainy season, officials are further narrowing restrictions on water usage to help stave off the effects of the state's ravaging four-year drought crisis.

Following record-low rainfall from December to April, with no extra precipitation expected for the rest of the year, the California State Water Resources Control Board voted Tuesday to increase emergency regulations on water usage for citizens and businesses alike.

"If conditions continue as they are likely to over the next two weeks, we’ll have less than half of the previous lowest reading," California Department of Water Resources spokesperson Doug Carlson told Yahoo News on Tuesday. "There is going to be almost nothing this year, which is pretty alarming."

The board is keeping previously established restrictions, which prohibit Californians from over-watering, using water to clean off their sidewalks, using sprinklers in the rain, or watering outdoor landscapes within 48 hours of rainfall.

In addition, the board is introducing new regulations which require water providers to have contingency plans for emergencies, prohibit restaurants from serving customers with table water unless asked, and order hotels to inform guests they may opt out of having their towels and linens cleaned.

"It is our understanding that the restaurant and hospitality industries have been understanding and cooperative in water conservation," board spokesperson George Kostyrko told Yahoo News. "This action has been undertaken by many restaurants and bars, but it’s not throughout."

According to a new poll by the Association of California Water Agencies, more than 90 percent of Californians are willing to make significant changes to conserve water.

On Tuesday, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle coined a term for the sense of looming dread that sneaked up on the state after four years of growing drought: California Water Anxiety Syndrome.

"If you live here, you already know," he writes. "California, as you might have heard, is running out of water. Very, very quickly. And there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it."

Morford continued:

We cannot make it snow. We cannot ever replace that pumped-out groundwater—need another Ice Age for that. We cannot refill our dried lakebeds. There is no pipeline large enough to transport trillions of gallons over from Boston. This is what we’re not accustomed to: No amount of money, no amount of political posturing, no display of military might, no act of Congress, no amount of chemicals, no amount of whistling by the graveyard can bring more water.

A lack of snowfall also increases the risk of wildfires, which are already occurring at a higher rate than average, having destroyed 3,200 acres since the start of the year, with fire season still on the horizon.

Climate experts have continued to raise alarms over the dismal status of California's water resources.

"Even if normal precipitation begins to fall, it will take a few years to overcome the massive deficits we've been running," scientist Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute research center, told USA Today.

"In the end, we have no choice but to bring supply and demand back into balance, and the options for new supply are very limited," Gleick continued. "We've reached 'peak water' in most western watersheds, and there's no more water to be had."

In a grim statement last week, NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti warned that California only has one year of water left in its basins, with groundwater reserves not far behind.

If the drought goes on for another five or more years, Gleick added, "all bets are off."

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