News

Gov. Jerry Brown orders mandatory reduction in water usage

California's snowpack at record low

Gov. Jerry Brown today, April 1, issued an executive order for statewide mandatory water-use reductions, the first-ever order in California's history, according to the governor's office.

With a record-low snowpack amid the state's drought, Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory 25 percent reductions in water usage by California cities and towns through February 2016.

The executive order also calls on the water board to direct local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing.

The order requires school campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use, and will create a statewide initiative partnering with local agencies to replace lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes, according to the governor's office.

A rebate program will also be set up to provide incentives for the replacement of inefficient household devices.

The governor announced the executive order at a manual snowpack survey conducted 90 miles east of Sacramento.

Electronic readings have shown the Sierra Nevada's snowpack's water content is lower than any year on record, just 8 percent of the historical average as of late March, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

"Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action," Brown said in a statement.

"Therefore, I'm issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible," the governor said.

Click here to download the full text of the executive order.

Related content:

State sets new mandatory water restrictions for urban areas

Palo Alto adopts water-use restrictions

— Bay City News Service

Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Steve G
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Since farms consume 80% of the water per year, was there any mention of cutbacks for them? If not, why not? Also, what does this mean "adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing"? Is it higher rates for conserving?


23 people like this
Posted by Linda
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Where are we going to get the water for all the new buildings in California. Looks to me like we are inviting more people here! Stop building so many new homes.


24 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Looks like I'll have to go fill my kid's fish bowl from the runoff of one of these big construction sites on El Camino...


26 people like this
Posted by oldtimer
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

We have to cut back while the developers continue to add huge new developments of condos,etc everywhere....what is fair about that?


13 people like this
Posted by Former Farmer of America
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:07 pm

"Since farms consume 80% of the water per year..."

That 80% ain't there any more, city boy. Many farms have been cut by 100%, which means all of us have been cut because (spoiler alert) farmers don't plant those really big gardens just for themselves; they grow that stuff to sell it to the stores that sell it to us. They can't do that without water.


8 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:51 pm

People should know that the Ag Sector only adds about 2-3% of the total GDP for the State. Moreover, the following are the top cash crops in the State--

Web Link

California's top-ten valued commodities for 2013 are:

• Milk — $7.6 billion
• Almonds — $5.8 billion
• Grapes — $5.6 billion
• Cattle, Calves — $3.05 billion
• Strawberries — $2.2 billion
• Walnuts — $1.8 billion
• Lettuce — $1.7 billion
• Hay — $1.6 billion
• Tomatoes — $1.2 billion
• Nursery plants— $1.2 billion


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Are Nestle and the other water companies who are selling our water for profit rationed or can they continue to siphon off huge amounts during the drought?

Remember, the Nestle CEO said water's not a human right.


5 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Palo Alto Weekly editor staff,

Does the water restrictions set forth by Governor Brown apply to all users? How about school/college districts, city/county/state and federal facilities?


15 people like this
Posted by Green or brown
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 1, 2015 at 7:23 pm

• Milk — $7.6 billion
• Almonds — $5.8 billion
• Cattle, Calves — $3.05 billion
• Walnuts — $1.8 billion

The above activities/crop are way too water intensive. Time to switch to something much better suited to our semi arid climate.


9 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Oldtimer and Linda, the commenters talking about farms have it right - new offices and housing use very little water. 80% of water in California is used for farming, and 70% of the remaining 20% that goes to metro areas is used for lawns and swimming pools. In other words, only 6% goes to human use rather than land irrigation!

If you look at per-person numbers, according to the city of Santa Monica, a person using water efficiently uses 68 gallons/day, or roughly 25,000 gallons per year.(Web Link) That sounds like a lot, but agriculture uses even more. It takes one gallon of water to produce one almond. (Web Link). So a year's worth of water for one person is 25,000 almonds... roughly 62 pounds or about $200 worth of almonds to a farmer.

Because so little water usage is by humans, it's very easy for cities to add population while reducing water use. In fact, Palo Alto did this between 2000 and 2010 - the city added 5% more households, but total water use decreased by 18%! See Web Link for the data.



2 people like this
Posted by thirsty
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:12 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Since I have had drip watering since before 1985, and there is very little run off. We have let the back lawn go brown. How could anyone figure what our use should be at 30% less. 30% less from what year. Since water saving practices have been effect from previous droughts, there is very little left to reduce.


21 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 12:03 am

This 25% across the board thing penalizes the people who are using water appropriately already.
The whole system is set up to cater to those who are wasteful to begin with ... as they say virtue
is its own reward, ha!


3 people like this
Posted by CR
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2015 at 5:42 am

We installed drip two years ago and we replaced our lawn with artificial grass back then as well. This will be interesting.


10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:35 am

30% from when? We cutback last year and had to remove several dead bushes and plants.

Exactly how is this going to be enforced?


13 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:07 am

I'm getting ready to launch a business that will water PA residents' lawns/yards with reclaimed water from the PA Water Treatment facility at the end of Embarcadero. I've not yet had luck getting City of PA / Santa Clara Valley Water Authority or State of CA to create a custom rebate that I could pass on to residents, but will keep trying. One 2000-gallon truck can water two yards, and the water is perfectly safe for plants/lawns/trees.

I have no idea if it'll work out, but with PA having its own water treatment plant, seems like it can work...


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If California farmers stop producing and raising milk, almonds, cattle and walnuts, California would save about 20 billion gallons of water per year. This is an absolute must. We should also realize that California is largely an arid state, large parts of it are desert, and we will never have enough water even for the existing population, which is already far too large for an arid state like us, let alone keep developing more and more housing. How about Palo Alto setting an example for the rest of the state and stopping all new development. We must discourage new companies from moving in. Many other parts of the country don't have water shortages, but are economically devastated, so start ups and the relocation of some existing companies would be literally life savers for them.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

"People should know that the Ag Sector only adds about 2-3% of the total GDP for the State."

Karl Marx said capitalism would collapse under its own weight, but he never imagined the actual scenario: the capitalists shut down their farmers because they contribute insufficient GDP to the bottom line; then the capitalists starve to death.

Hoo boy.


9 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:32 am

>Karl Marx said capitalism would collapse under its own weight

It is ironic that communism collapsed under the weight of a command economy, as well as the totalitarianism that is part of that structure. Even more ironic is that California has a command structure for water distribution, developed over the past century. It is not a market-based structure.

Fresh water is derivative solar power, and its reliability is not assured. Even storage is not solved. Sound familiar?

If fresh water were to be sold on the open market, according to supply and demand, conservation would have already occurred. Gov. Brown would not need to threaten about percentage reductions. After all, if it costs me X amount per gallon 10 years ago, and now it costs me 10X (or 100X or 1000X)per gallon, I would adjust with the market.

In the future, fresh water will need to come from desalination powered by nuclear energy. Increased efficiencies, like graphene filters, will probably eliminate fears of fresh water shortages. This is an example of exponential growth through exponential technologies. However this abundant future will need realistic leadership...which California does not currently have. We are currently stuck in the notions of scarcity and command.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:39 am

@mauricio, what becomes of all the farm workers? Collateral damage?

@Chris, I believe the reclaimed water still has detrimental salinity issues that preclude long-term irrigation applications for much of our foliage. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in our regular water are around 70 milligrams per liter. Our reclaimed water is 900 mg/L. Natural rainwater is 10 mg/L. Tolerant species include desert saltgrass, four-wing saltbush, pickleweed, ice plant, and date palms. I wouldn't use reclaimed water on roses.


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Since Palo Alto and the Utilities Dept. pride themselves on being so green, how about a city resolution to tell Gov. Brown the state should A) ban fracking and B) should bar Nestle and the other water companies from selling state water for a profit?

Other cities and are issuing resolutions on all sorts of good causes. How about PA?


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Various sources are reporting that some California farmers are selling their water allotments, or some portion thereof, to the State--since this is ready cash that does not require that they incur risk of planting during the current low-water year.

To what extent these sales will help the overall need for water elsewhere in the state is not clear at the moment.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:35 pm

>Since Palo Alto and the Utilities Dept. pride themselves on being so green, how about a city resolution to tell Gov. Brown the state should A) ban fracking and B) should bar Nestle and the other water companies from selling state water for a profit?

Your statement and question distill the real problems:

-PA should not try to be 'green'. It should try to be a leading force into an abundant future. Currently, in order to seem 'green', it is regressing into a reactionary era of scarcity.

- If water is for sale, all the better, as long as the market determines the price.

-Fracking is very good, for many reasons, at this moment in time. If the water that it uses is paid for at market prices, that is a very good thing.

I gave up watering my lawn months ago. I don't flush my toilet if it is yellow. I don't even water my plants...my yard is dying. Most of my liberal neighbors still have green lawns and gardens...go figure. I was raised in a water-challenged area, so it is no big deal, emotionally, for me.


6 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm

No doubt there will be a goodly number of ideas popping up in the coming months about what we should be doing about dealing with the shortfall of water this year, here in CA, as well as looking to the future. One possibility would be to consider tapping into the glacial run-off in Alaska, moving the water south by tanker at first, and then possibly a pipeline at some time in the future.

Massive Glacial Melt-off Pouring into Gulf of Alaska:
Web Link

The collective freshwater discharge of this region is more than four times greater than the mighty Yukon River of Alaska and Canada, and half again as much as the Mississippi River.
---
At the moment, this freshwater is flowing into the Gulf of Alaska, which has various implications for the ecology—such as changing the salinity of the water. It would seem that tapping this supply, even if for a short period of time, would offer cities along the coast access to water that is in short supply in the farming areas and take a little pressure off the Gulf of Alaska at the same time.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

It takes about 500 gallons of water to grow a pound of almonds. California grows just under 2 billion pounds of almonds a year, so that's roughly a trillion gallons of water per year. About 70% of those almonds are sold internationally.

So basically, our almond industry ships 700 billion gallons of California water overseas every year, making a lot of money in the process. Much of that water is still subsidized by one or another mechanism.

Meanwhile, Sacramento cracks down on restaurants serving water.


6 people like this
Posted by watersaver
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm

@Bob M. I disagree with your statement "Because so little water usage is by humans, it's very easy for cities to add population while reducing water use. In fact, Palo Alto did this between 2000 and 2010 - the city added 5% more households, but total water use decreased by 18%! See Web Link for the data."

Really? We keep being asked to save water and we comply -- how much more can we save now?

It doesn't make sense to add more housing to Palo Alto or surrounding cities with a major water shortage.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:53 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Water intensive crops like almonds can be replaced by far less water intense crops. Californians will eat less beef-they'll get healthier and live longer, a very good thing. This crisis shows again the one of the byproducts of unchecked capitalism, mindless and greedy waste is devastating to the society at large. Without water there is no life. If the current trend of devastating droughts continues and we don't force agri business to curtail their water use dramatically, California will run out of water. If more people move into California, we will also run out of water.


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 2, 2015 at 3:06 pm

> our almond industry ships 700 billion gallons of California water
> overseas every year

This is not exactly true. From digging about, trying to learn a little more about agricultural uses of water, it seems that farms generally rely on three main sources of water: 1) precipitation (rain), 2) ground water and 3) irrigational water (transported in from parts elsewhere). Moreover, there really isn't much water in an almond nut--so the water isn't really leaving the state.

Rain water is generally assumed to belong to the person upon whose land it falls, and that’s more-or-less true of groundwater—which leaves irrigational water as water that we might call “ours” Something I learned from this research is that reports attempting to determine the amount of water needed to grow a specific crop are compiled, these reports tend to ignore the rain contribution to a specific plant’s water needs, focusing more on the irrigational needs—which is water than typically requires a larger management system.

BTW—the Almond industry suggests that the 80% number for Ag Sector water use is overstated—

Web Link

Some reports have overstated agriculture’s share of water use in California. Agriculture accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s developed water usage in an average year. Fifty percent is comprised by environmental water use, including water in rivers, streams, wetlands and water needed to maintain water quality for agricultural and urban use, and 10 percent is used in urban areas.6 All these types of usage are important for California


4 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

>This crisis shows again the one of the byproducts of unchecked capitalism

It actually demonstrates just the opposite: If there was a free market in the sale of water, there would not be wasted water growing water-intensive crops. Capitalists will not grow crops that are too expensive to grow. Why? Because capitalists like profits, not losses.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 2, 2015 at 5:19 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

No.The federal government has been providing excessive amounts of cheap subsidized water to the California corporate agriculture, which then produces a demand for water that can’t be met even in the best of times. If the Ag business had to pay market rates, they might think twice about growing and raising water intense products. Same old, same old:capitalism for the people, socialism for corporations. Free market? No such thing exists in our country.


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 5:49 pm

>The federal government has been providing excessive amounts of cheap subsidized water to the California corporate agriculture, which then produces a demand for water that can't be met even in the best of times. If the Ag business had to pay market rates, they might think twice about growing and raising water intense products.

We agree! Stop the subsidies (to everybody). Then the free market will determine the best efficiencies.

BTW, it's even worse than you think: Water rights to farmers, carved in stone over a century ago, are now being sold by the farmers to the cities for a profit. If the government, local or state or federal sold water rights according to supply and demand, we would not have these current distortions.

It is about the same with the cities...why should Hetch-Hetchy water be almost given away to San Francisco (and Palo Alto), just because SF agreed to built a dam up there? If that water was sold each year, according to supply and demand, we probably wouldn't be growing lawns down here.

Command economies don't work over the long run.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@mauricio - you pretty much restated what Craig said, "The federal government has been providing excessive amounts of cheap subsidized water." That's the problem.


4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

SEVERELY UNFAIR to those who cut back early (last year) and had put other conservation practices in place.
Backyard Brown Lawn as of last spring (3-4 units saved during summer.)
Expanded number irrigation zones to micro manage times (1 unit saved)
A Rain sensor ($20) cuts off the sprinkler cycle when rain detected.

BTW What is with the lame 'tips' in the latest utility bill?
Title 24 construction has mandated Low Flow/flush for years
Our house is OLD:
We put low flow faucets and shower heads before/during the 87' drought. There is no excuse NOT to have these by now.
We replaced the old 5Gal flush toilets with ULF models before any rebate program.
Full loads in the energy star dishwasher (hand washing the same dishes uses MORE, not less. Bad tip).
Full loads in the Washer (and grey water on trees)
High water rates may have been the original reason for some of these, but they were done and water usage dropped.
Now the neighbors who sat back and did nothing, only have to drop to where I am already and I get to KILL MY ENTIRE YARD to knock another 30%. No flowers, green bushes.

Bare dirt and Weeds. Is that what PA wants?
I sure won't be able/want to afford new PA-'proper' landscape, because the water RATES will rise again to make up revenue for the LACK OF USE.


2 people like this
Posted by jaa
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:28 am

After living and working here for well over a decade, my immediate impulse is to head back to the Pacific Northwest for a very modest retirement, a tad earlier than planned. They have plenty of rain up there and housing won't break the bank. Plus I miss the trees and the fresh air! I don't think these measures from the castle-in-the-keep are nearly enough. It just seems like window dressing to me; however, as usual, with favoritism to the status quo. It appears San Diego County has good forethought, common sense and a heads up on the rest of the state with their Carlsbad Desalination Project, Web Link Infrastructure is nitty gritty and not nearly as much fun as all of the supposed glam of Silicon Valley. Instead of cute little rockets and more cute little cars and this endless parade of adorable little gadgets and excessive real estate, we should direct our smarts to rebuilding our basic infrastructure, in this case, obviously, for water resources, like yesterday.


7 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:54 am

There seems to be some misunderstanding of what the governor said. He demanded that cities and water AGENCIES cut usage by 25%. He did not demand that each individual cut back by 25%. Each agency will choose its own program to reach the goal. We need to wait and see how Palo Alto responds before crying foul.


7 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:28 am

mauricio is a registered user.

But the flow of cheap subsidized water is not going to slow down to the California corporate agriculture because they have an immensely powerful lobby in both D.C. and Sacramento. By comparison, small farmers are becoming extinct because they can't compete against corporate agriculture, and that's why 'free market' is an illusion, since large corporations own the politicians and the playing field of the market place is always tilted heavily in their favor.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

"Stop the subsidies (to everybody). Then the free market will determine the best efficiencies."

Real capitalists don't want a free market. They want a market stacked in their favor, by the power and money of the government when necessary. That's why they pay lobbyists bookoo bucks to shepherd the legislators they buy with campaign contributions. Practical capitalism has always worked this way.

The supreme irony is that we need close government regulation of anti-free-market capitalists to keep our "free market" anywhere near free. Marx is chuckling in his grave.


4 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm

We can argue about capitalism or we can do something about the drought. I'm a capitalist who is putting $$$ at risk as we speak to offer PA residents a twice monthly 1000-gallon landscape watering service using reclaimed water from PA's H20 treatment facility. I have no idea if I'll make money or not, but I'm gonna try anyways. If enough PA residents use my service, we'll reduce PA's residential water use by millions of gallons, AND it'll become cost-competitive with tap water.

www.facebook.com/RainDanceLawnwatering


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm

"I'm a capitalist who is putting $$$ at risk as we speak to offer PA residents a twice monthly 1000-gallon landscape watering service using reclaimed water from PA's H20 treatment facility."

A true American capitalist: subsidized by PA ratepayers' sewer fees.


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm

>SEVERELY UNFAIR to those who cut back early (last year) and had put other conservation practices in place.

This is why percentage reductions make no sense. If the water is 'sold' to the consumer on a per gallon basis, according to market supply and demand, you would have nothing to worry about...because you already have built in your savings.


3 people like this
Posted by Thirsty
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:46 pm

">SEVERELY UNFAIR to those who cut back early (last year) and had put other conservation practices in place.

This is why percentage reductions make no sense. If the water is 'sold' to the consumer on a per gallon basis, according to market supply and demand, you would have nothing to worry about...because you already have built in your savings."

And that's why the reductions are from 2013 levels. Those that have already cut back will not have to reduce by the full 25%. Also, as mentioned before, the cutbacks are for the water districts and municipalities, not individuals.


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Unfortunately, the debate about capitalism is very relevant to the drought issue. We don't, and portably never had, a true free market system. We do have crony capitalism, in which true competition is smothered by large corporations, like Ag business who own the political structure on just about any level, currently thanks to Citizens United, squashing any real competition and exercising virtual monopoly on the market. In this crony capitalism system, corporations never have to pay the price for hubris or even felonious behavior, because the tax payers will always subsidize them when they get into trouble, but same tax payers are on their own. Who would have imagined that the USA is actually the most socialist country in the world?


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:26 pm

"In this crony capitalism system, corporations never have to pay the price for hubris or even felonious behavior, because the tax payers will always subsidize them when they get into trouble, but same tax payers are on their own."

Subsidies to corporations are called capitalism, and everybody knows capitalism is good. Subsidies to tax payers are called socialism, and everybody knows socialism is bad.


Like this comment
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2015 at 2:09 am

@ Chris Zaharias, all the best success to you and your new business. I think that is an excellent idea. This is an example of good capitalism or conscious capitalism. It serves a viable purpose and conserves natural resources. All the best to you!


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Front page New York Times today:

Can California continue its endless growth?

Web Link


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 67 comments | 2,144 views

Global Warming Diet
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,279 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,147 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 633 views

 

Pre-registration ends today!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More