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Drought Gets Personal for California Residents

July 16, 2014
By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today Western and Online Editor google + 
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Letting water run down a driveway could result in a $500 fine under a new California emergency regulation approved July 15.  

New regulation carries $500 fine for wasting water while new UC-Davis study predicts $1.5 billion in farm losses from the drought.

California’s drought troubles just got more personal for millions of California residents.

The State Water Resources Control Board yesterday approved an emergency regulation that carries a $500 per-day fine if Californians waste water outdoors.

The state water agency said the new regulation is designed to ensure water agencies, their customers and state residents increase water conservation in urban settings. 

Under the conservation regulation, which goes into effect Aug. 1, all Californians will be expected to stop:
• washing down driveways and sidewalks;
• watering of outdoor landscapes that causes excess runoff;
• using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle;
• using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated.

Most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors, according to the water agency. In some areas, 50% or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping.

Drought in California field
A new study from UC-Davis forecasts California's drought will cause losses of $810 million in crop revenue and $203 million in dairy and other livestock value, plus additional groundwater pumping costs of $454 million. 

Yesterday’s emergency regulation announcement comes as California endures its third-driest year in 106 years of record-keeping. It also closely follows the July 15 release of a sobering new study from the University of California-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. 

The study estimates the drought’s impact on California could include the loss of 17,100 jobs and $2.2 billion in economic damage, including $1.5 billion in direct costs to the state’s agriculture sector.

That report shows that groundwater reserves are helping California agriculture survive its worst drought in decades. But the nation’s No. 1 farm state faces serious challenges if it continues to deplete those groundwater resources.

The UC Davis study found that the drought – the third most severe on record – is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by about one-third. Groundwater pumping is expected to replace most river water losses, with some areas more than doubling their pumping rate over the previous year, the study said. More than 80% of this replacement pumping occurs in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Basin.

The study was conducted by Richard Howitt, Josue Medillin-Azuara, Duncan MacEwan and Jay Lund.

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