New Water Restrictions Imposed Today

Thursday, March 19, 2015

California residents have to turn off their sprinklers, and restaurants won't give customers water unless they ask under new drought regulations approved Tuesday.

The State Water Resources Control Board has extended and expanded restrictions on water use with California entering its fourth year of drought as winter ends without significant storms or snowfall to replenish dwindling reservoirs.

Amid this backdrop, environmental advocates are calling on the state water board to find even more aggressive ways to slash water use, such as rationing, enforcing plumbing upgrades and going after corporate landscapes.

The state agency has conceded its actions so far have been focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. It voted Tuesday to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

New rules will require local water departments to restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don't, residents must follow a state rule limiting their sprinkling to twice a week. Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days after.

It's up to local water departments to enforce these rules, which are expected to take effect later this month. They can fine offenders $500 per violation, but few have gone that far.

The water board also decided Tuesday it will start tracking how agencies enforce the regulations, including the number of citations and warning letters issued.