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California Drought: New Proposed Water Reduction Plan Released

Jae C. Hong / AP

This May 1, 2014, file photo shows irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, California.

Jae C. Hong / AP

California water regulators have released a new proposed plan requiring some cities to reduce water use up to 36 percent.

The plan is in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order which directs cities and towns to collectively cut their water use by 25 percent compared to 2013.

The State Water Resources Control Board previously announced water use reduction targets for communities based on per-capita use, but many California cities said the plan ignored past conservation efforts.

The new proposal recommends nine "tiers" or categories of cuts, based upon the number of gallons residents use per capita per day during July through September.  Most irrigation occurs during the summer months. The water board says those months provide the greatest opportunity to conserve.

Caren Trgovcich, chief deputy director with the water board, says the change better reflects the past conservation efforts of urban water suppliers.  

“We acknowledge that there has been significant pre-drought conservation by many water suppliers but more conservation is needed now to address the current drought and the prospect that it continues beyond 2015,” says Trgovcich.

Sacramento's new proposed conservation target is now 28 percent.  The Sacramento County Water Agency will now have a 32 percent conservation standard.

Some urban water suppliers can request to be placed into a lower conservation category, including cities that deliver more than 20 percent of their water to commercial agriculture and those that have a reserve supply of water that could last multiple years.

Agencies that don't take steps to conserve or reduce water use could face fines.

The board will take public comment on the draft and will release revised regulations on April 28th.  The board will vote on a final plan next month. The rules would take effect in June.

You can find more information about the proposal here.