Rich Californians trucking in water to mitigate drought

Environment -

The entire state of California is categorized as being in at least a "severe drought" condition this summer, but some residents are affected more than others.

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Montecito, CA

Montecito, the wealthiest suburb in Santa Barbara County, began rationing water in February and prohibited the refilling of swimming pools. The city has cut its water use by 48%, but several hundred residents continue to flout the limits and are on track to pay $4 million in fines by the end of 2014.

Montecito sits above the driest part of the central California coast. To mitigate the effects of the drought, some residents have been importing water from other locales by truck. Neighbors report seeing a steady stream of such trucks, which carry up to 5,000 gallons of water each, on a daily basis.

In a nearly unanimous vote, California lawmakers Aug. 13 approved a $7.5 billion water bond measure to be added to the November ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure soon afterwards. Source: www.flickr.com

In a nearly unanimous vote, California lawmakers Aug. 13 approved a $7.5 billion water bond measure to be added to the November ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure soon afterwards.

"We've got a real water bond, and we've got Democrats and Republicans that are more unified than I've ever seen, probably, in my life… the future of California needs a lot of water and we've got to use it in the best way possible." Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown

The bond was first proposed in 2009 at over $11 billion, but was twice kept off the ballot out of fears that it would be defeated. The revised water plan calls for: $2.7 billion for storage; $1.5 billion for watershed restoration; $900 million for groundwater projects; and $725 million for recycling.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported in early August that 23.51% of California was in extreme drought (red) and 58.41% of the state was in exceptional drought (dark red). Another 17.88% of the state is in severe drought (orange), with San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties getting worse.

The state empowered local water boards to enact regulations that ban wasteful water practices, such as excessive landscape watering, cleaning cars with a hose without a shut-off valve, and washing sidewalks or driveways. Most water waste in California comes from outdoor use. CC BY-ND WikiCommons

The state empowered local water boards to enact regulations that ban wasteful water practices, such as excessive landscape watering, cleaning cars with a hose without a shut-off valve, and washing sidewalks or driveways. Most water waste in California comes from outdoor use.

"I like to say, having a browning lawn and a dirty car is a badge of honor." Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of State Water Resources Control Board

California's State Water Resource Control Board approved regulations that, starting Aug. 1, give local cities the authority to fine, up to $500 a day, people who waste water. Through May, voluntary and some mandatory water restrictions have led to a 5% cut in water usage, much less than the target of 20%.

San Francisco imposed a mandatory 10% reduction on outdoor watering Aug. 12. No penalties have yet been approved for violators. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said Aug. 11 that his city was "very close to mandatory water rationing," and that the city is "reviewing all of the protocols that we have to get ready."

A study published in early May in Geophysical Research Letters said that increased greenhouse gases since the 1970s are a major contributor to California's drought. The study contradicted theories that blame natural causes such as El Nino, but said the upside was that extreme weather events are potentially predictable.

An August study by UC researchers found that California's State Water Resources Control Board had approved contracts to give away 5X more water than the state has in a normal year. As a result, "in times of drought, it's hard to tell who should have to reduce water use," the study authors said.

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