California’s Emergency Drought Plan Leaves Out One HUGE Detail

Photo: Global Warming Images/REX USA.
California got bad news — again — about the state of its historic drought on Wednesday, and residents will now have to take drastic measures to conserve the dwindling water supply. Is it time to say goodbye to green lawns and long showers? Speaking from Lake Tahoe, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the state's Water Resources Control Board to cut water consumption by 25%, the Los Angeles Times reported. He also ordered a ban on watering grass in public medians, cutbacks on watering large spaces like golf courses and cemeteries, and called for more information regarding water usage on large farms.  One major blind spot in the plan? Agriculture. California has a nearly $50 billion agriculture economy, and environmentalists and journalists, like Slate's Eric Holthaus, have repeatedly pointed to the agricultural industry as a major source of waste. Residential and urban water consumption accounts for less than 15% of the state's use. As Food and Water Watch California Director Adam Scow said in a March 19 statement in response to an earlier round of conservation rules, “Governor Brown is penalizing Californians for their water use but is giving a free pass to agriculture and oil corporations that are over-pumping and polluting our state’s dwindling groundwater supply." California is in the middle of a years-long drought that shows no signs of letting up, and seems to get scarier by the day. NASA predicted in mid-March that the state has only one year of water left, and many towns are already out of water
Brown was at Lake Tahoe for the annual measuring of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a tradition that dates back to 1941 and helps scientists determine how much water will flow into the lakes and rivers that make up the region's water supply — snow provides almost a third of the state's water. According to Newsweek, a typical reading on April 1 at the traditional test site would be about 66.5 inches of snow. This year's total: zero.
New restrictions add onto several Brown enacted earlier in March targeting businesses. According to Bloomberg, restaurants and bars can only serve water if a patron asks for it, and hotels must give guests the option to reuse towels and linens rather than cleaning them every day. Still, more will need to be done to deal with the unprecedented shortages, starting with a look at industrial farming, where the majority of the state's water consumption takes place. Currently, local governments are responsible for going after those that violate water regulations, which has made for inconsistent oversight.

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