SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California cities that are hot, dry or crowded, or have managed to come up with new sources of water, might be able to get a slight break in the state’s drought-time water-conservation targets, state officials said Friday.
California’s Water Resources Control Board is slated to decide in February whether to slightly ease water-conservation targets for some cities and towns. Gov. Jerry Brown mandated last year that the state overall had to see 25 percent less water use by cities and towns to cope with the state’s four-year drought.
Water board officials gave details Friday, saying they are considering reducing conservation targets by up to 8 percent for some of the state’s more than 400 water agencies. That’s higher than an earlier draft in December, which suggested up to 4 percent cuts in the targets.
Eric Oppenheimer, the board’s chief deputy director, said the changes would be only “modest adjustments” in conservation goals for the drought.
Water officials said Friday that communities that were especially hot or dry might be able to get a slight cut in their conservation targets. So may communities with fast population growth, and communities that have developed desalination plants, wastewater-recycling plants or other sources of new water also might get a break.
Water agencies will likely have to apply for some changes, while others would be automatic.
California is in its driest four-year span on record, and officials anticipate a possible fifth year of drought.
Weather forecasters say a strong El Nino weather system could drench the state, but one good year won’t be enough to rehydrate the parched landscape.
Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus said officials will reassess conservation requirements in April after the rain and snow season.
In Southern California, local governments have argued state officials should acknowledge huge investments in new supplies to prepare for drought.
This year, the San Diego region completed a $1 billion seawater desalination plant, the largest in the Americas. Orange County recently expanded wastewater recycling to produce 100 million gallons of drinking water daily.