Governor Jerry Brown has officially declared the drought over in all but four California counties.
The announcement comes after one of the state’s wettest seasons on record. The move lifts the 2014 drought emergency order that led to unprecedented mandatory cutbacks for urban water users.
"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner. Conservation must remain a way of life," Brown said in a statement.
State regulators say bans on wasteful water practices are still in place through November.
Californians can’t hose off sidewalks and driveways or irrigate lawns within 48 hours of rain. Water suppliers still must report their water use.
Water regulators also released a long-term plan that requires water agencies set new conservation targets by 2021. Under the plan, suppliers would set targets that take into account climate, population, and land-use in their area.
"We did a pretty good job for an emergency," says Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. "For the long-term we can come up with an effective and achievable set of targets that folks can move toward at a reasonable pace and that fits their unique local situation."
The plan is already provoking the ire of some water agencies that say it goes too far.
“Now they are proposing to provide the State Water Board with permanent authority to mandate water use reductions and to make those reductions more stringent over time without any legislative oversight," said John Woodling, executive director of the Regional Water Authority, which represents 21 water providers in the Sacramento region.
The drought declaration remains in effect in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties where emergency drinking water projects are underway.
California Governor Jerry Brown ended the drought state of emergency in most of California Friday. Water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices are still in place. Wasteful practices include watering lawns during or right after rainfall.
According to the statement, although severely dry conditions are gone, damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas.
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