By: Laura Edelman, Staff Member
For the first time in California’s history, Governor Jerry Brown has ordered a 25 percent cut in urban water usage.[i] “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 remarked.[ii] The restrictions consists of not washing down sidewalks or driveways, recirculating water in fountains, and only serving water to customers per request at restaurants, among many other things.[iii] The mandatory water restrictions are the consequence of a drought that has harangued the Southwest for four consecutive years.
In the coming weeks, state regulators will start enforcing the new restrictions on a sliding scale based on per capita use. Some Californian cities have been aggressive vigilantes in conserving water, while others have little to show for their efforts.[iv] Because of the sliding scale, slacking cities will sacrifice more in the immediate future.[v]
For example, in February, the average usage per person per day in Los Angeles was 70 gallons.[vi] Contrast this to Beverly Hills’ average usage per person per day of 160 gallons.[vii] Beverly Hills and 135 comparable areas must compensate for their past higher usage and cut their water usage by 35 percent in one year.[viii] Citizens critical of the cuts argue that the sliding scale is unfair, because the hardest hit areas under the new implementation are suburban areas where people have larger lots than in urban areas, and thus residents naturally use more water.[ix]
Some citizens are now looking to the federal government to get involved. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, who serves as House majority leader in the U.S. House of Representative, declared that he will attempt to revive a stalled bill to build two large water tanks in California.[x] The bill has been perpetually blocked by Democrats citing environmental concerns over such construction.[xi]
[i] Brian A. Barreto, A User’s Guide to the Drought, Californian American Water (Apr. 2, 2015), http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/AMERPR/19337969x0x819361/63A84733-04C1-4DB0-80CE-F526E6E0651B/Drought_Update_Southern_California_Los_Angeles_PR_040215.pdf.
[ii] Victor Li, California issues first-ever water reduction to handle drought, ABA J. (Apr. 2, 2015 at 12:39 PM), http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/in_the_face_of_an_historic_drought_california_issues_first_ever_water_reduc.
[iii] Barreto, supra note i.
[iv] Kirk Siegler, California Works Out Details of Mandatory Water Restrictions, NPR (Apr. 9, 2015 at 5:03 AM), http://www.npr.org/2015/04/09/398458494/california-works-out-details-of-new-mandatory-water-restrictions.
[viii] Emma Fitzsimmons, In California, Cities Braced to Cut Water 35%, The New York Times (Apr. 8, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/us/in-california-cities-braced-to-cut-water-by-10-to-35.html?_r=0.
[x] Li, supra note ii.