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California Regulators End Unprecedented Water Restrictions

Californians will still be expected to save water, but state regulators Wednesday lifted unprecedented mandatory conservation measures in place since last year. 

Those rules required Californians to cut water use by 25 percent on average statewide. The State Water Resources Control Board voted to scrap those rules and instead allow cities and water agencies to “self-certify” that they can provide a three-year water supply. If they predict a shortfall, their conservation rate would be equal to that shortfall. 

"So if the deficit is say 12 percent, then the conservation standard for now, for this year, would be 12 percent,” says Max Gomberg, the water board's climate and conservation manager. 

Environmental groups told the water board that some cities wouldn’t be conserving at all. 

“Since we are still in a drought, we do recommend that the state board set a minimum floor, a modest four percent conservation target so that we send the message that everyone needs to be doing their part to conserve water,” says Sean Bothwell with the California Coastkeeper Alliance.

Some water board members expressed reservations about trusting water agencies to remain vigilant about conservation.

“I might be more comfortable with it if we were to discuss a floor of some kind," says Tam Doduc, the one water board member who abstained from voting. "To me that reflects the nature of an emergency situation during which we are supposedly acting today.”

Many water agencies say even if their conservation target drops, they still expect water savings.

The rules still prevent wasteful practices like hosing off sidewalks, watering lawns within 48 hours of rain, and washing cars without shut-off nozzles.

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