Local water agencies react to Drought State of Emergency being lifted

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Drought State of Emergency has been lifted for most of California. Governor Jerry Brown made the announcement on Friday. This comes after unprecedented water conservation and ample winter rain and snow.

Two water utility companies in the Coachella Valley have released statements following the governor's announcement, and they're showing support for the transition.

Desert Water Agency General Manager Mark Krause said, "We're very proud of the efforts made during the statewide drought. Shifting our focus back to long-term sustainability only makes sense. We will definitely continue to work with our customers to enhance efficiency."

Some restricted activities, like blatantly wasteful irrigation (runoff), watering during and 48 hours after rain and washing down sidewalks and hardscapes will be permanently prohibited by the State and by DWA pursuant to the agency’s conservation ordinance, district officials said in a release.

Desert Water Agency will continue to enforce these restrictions by encouraging customers to participate in the agency’s rebate programs and issuing penalties when needed.

Although the Drought State of Emergency is over, the governor wants Californians to maintain water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices, such as watering during or right after it rains. 

Board action is needed to change Desert Water Agency restrictions as to what day of the week and what time of day customers are permitted to water their landscaping. The Board of Directors will evaluate these restrictions at their next board meeting on April 18 at 8 a.m. at Desert Water Agency headquarters, 1200 Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. The agency will make an announcement on restrictions that day.

Officials with the Coachella Valley Water District support the actions taken to lift the state's drought emergency as well, while shifting the focus to long-term conservation and improved planning for future droughts.

"CVWD has been among several water agencies lobbying the state to lift the emergency in light of the wet winter and heavy snowpack throughout the state,” said CVWD General Manager Jim Barrett. “We have always been committed to promoting conservation and managing the water supplies in a long-term, sustainable manner.”

Because of the changes, the state is looking to make water-use restrictions permanent. The following will remain in effect for CVWD customers:

  • No irrigation during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall
  • Broken sprinklers must be repaired within 24 hours of notification
  • Eating establishments may only serve drinking water upon request
  • Hotels and motels must provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily
  • Applying water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff to adjacent property, roadways, parking lots, etc. is prohibited
  • Using a hose to wash an automobile, windows, solar panels, and tennis courts, except where the hose is equipped with a shut-off nozzle, is prohibited
  • Applying any water to any hard surface including, but not limited to, driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt is prohibited
  • No using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature
  • Irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians is prohibited

  The executive order, B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties but four:

  • Fresno County
  • Kings County
  • Tulare County
  • Tuolumne County

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said Governor Brown. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

According to the governor's release, the severely dry conditions that afflicted much of the state beginning in the winter of 2011-12 are gone, but damage from the drought will linger for years in many areas. The drought reduced farm production in some regions, killed an estimated 100 million trees, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies for many rural communities.

State officials went on to say that the consequences of millions of dead trees and the diminished groundwater basins will continue to challenge areas of the state for years.

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