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Executive Summary for July 16th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary.

Published on July 16, 2015 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

California Lawns Will Get Smaller

It may be the biggest long-term policy change to come out of the present drought: on Wednesday, state officials adopted new rules that will shrink the size of lawns on all new developments in the state.

Reducing turf area will go a long way towards saving water in urban environments. Outdoor landscaping – primarily lawns – accounts for as much as 70 percent of residential water use in California, depending on the local microclimate.

In Wednesday’s action, the Los Angeles Times reports, the California Water Commission approved a revised Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance that includes the following provisions:

  • New homes: grass is limited to about 25 percent of a home’s combined front, back and side yards.
  • Existing homes: significant renovation of outdoor areas with more than 2,500 square feet of landscaping must reduce turf area.
  • Commercial & industrial: a small slice of turf will be allowed if the rest of the area is covered in plants that use very little water.

State law requires all land-use agencies to adopt a water-efficient landscape ordinance at least as stringent as the one approved Wednesday. They are required to report on adoption of the ordinance by Decemeber 31.

Click here for a link to the meeting agenda with details on the ordinance.

GOP Drought Bill Set for House Hearing Today

A controversial bill by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, is set for a hearing in the House today, but it’s unclear whether supporters can win enough votes to avoid a likely presidential veto.

The bill, HR 2898, would require that federal regulators maintain certain water diversion levels from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta unless the secretary of the Interior certifies that this would harm long-term survival of fish in the region, in particular, the Delta smelt, and no other alternatives to protect smelt are available.

The 170-page bill also sets deadlines to complete feasibility studies to build or enlarge five dams in the state, and ends efforts to build up salmon populations in the San Joaquin River.

The Office of Management and Budget stated in an analysis that “much of the bill contains provisions that have little connection to the ongoing drought.”

Are We Ready to Embrace Wastewater Recycling?

“By all accounts, the tide of public opinion appears to be turning.”

So says this Reuters article, anyway. Whether you believe that or not, the writer goes on to make other declarations that are indisputably true:

  • Recycling sewage is cheaper than seawater desalination, and on par with purchasing imported water in most areas of California.
  • You’re already drinking it, whether you know it or not.

That last statement is rarely heard in polite circles, but it’s about time we all understood it.

If your local water agency draws its drinking water from a creek or river (as most do, in one form or another) you can be certain it’s also drawing partially treated wastewater that was discharged into the same creek or river by some other community upstream.

“The yuck factor is still an issue,” says Frances Spivy-Weber, vice chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “You have to be quite straightforward with the public … so they don’t feel like they’re being tricked.”

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press / Rich Pedroncelli

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