It was no April Fool’s joke: Wednesday’s snow survey measured the Sierra snowpack at a record-low 5 percent of normal. That prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to impose California’s first ever mandatory water restrictions.
"People should realize, we're in a new era," the governor said near Lake Tahoe, after watching the state Department of Water Resources conduct the snow survey. "The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day - that's gonna be a thing of the past."
Frank Gehrke with the California Department of Water Resources stood in a bare, dry field that in a typical year would be covered with five feet of snow.
“And this is the first year in its measurements going back to 1942 where this snow course has been bare,” he said.
The governor picked that backdrop to announce mandatory water restrictions in California for the first time ever.
“We’re in an historic drought, and that demands unprecedented action,” he said.
Brown said he had tried asking for reductions: “I called for 20 percent voluntary, and we’re gonna get more like 9 percent. That’s not enough.”
So his executive order mandates a 25 percent urban water cut. “There will be some heartache here. There will be some who will have different views. But this is my best judgment.”
State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus says her agency will set targets based on how well each region is already reducing water use, “meaning that we have to come up with a sliding scale where those who have been conserving longer, and use less, will have lower targets than those that have just started conserving, or use more.”
But she says every Californian will have to do more.
Brown's order also sets aside money for drought-tolerant landscaping and water-efficient appliance rebates. It mandates that golf courses and other large landscapes reduce their water usage. And it speeds up the review and permitting processes for water projects.
.@CA_DWR makes it official: Sierra snowpack at just 5% of normal for April 1st.— Ben Adler (@adlerben) April 1, 2015
.@JerryBrownGov executive order: mandatory 25% water reduction in cities and towns + new rate pricing structure to encourage conservation— Ben Adler (@adlerben) April 1, 2015
New mandate 25 percent reduction in water use say @JerryBrownSays— Amy Quinton (@CapRadioQuinton) April 1, 2015