More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday that pledges to reduce the amount of water used in the Western United States by 20% by 2020, to be followed by an additional 10% reduction in 2025.
Brown previously ordered the mandatory restrictions as a result of the state’s largest water loss over the course of a century during dry conditions in 2017. In response to that event, he declared a state of emergency and used an “all-of-the-above” approach to address problems that had been ignored.
“During the past year, we have seen unprecedented extreme drought and have seen water use in the Western states increase by 10 percent,” Brown said in a statement following the signing of the bill.
“As California and the Western United States have been dealing with record-setting water loss, and as the U.S. and world have seen increased drought and climate change, I believe we need to act and be proactive in addressing the issues and take actions that reduce our water use.”
The bill directs state agencies to develop a plan to reduce water use in the Western states.
As part of the bill, the state will set a mandatory 20% limit of water use in the Western United States and begin a voluntary approach to curtail water use, followed by an additional 10% limit on water use in 2025.
“The state must do everything possible to protect our water supply and our economy,” Gov. Brown said.
“Our state has seen unprecedented record-setting water losses for the past year, and we must ensure that the most vulnerable Californians — seniors, the disabled, small businesses — still have access to the water they need for their daily lives.”
The new law also allows agencies in the state to use the unused amount of the water stored in the state’s water storage system, which the state will pay the first $1 million in water costs every year.
The state has the option to purchase water from other Western states.
The bill sets an end to water rights and transfers of water between California and other Western states that have an effective water rights claim, as well as a three-year moratorium on granting water rights to new users.