- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Brown lawns and idle sprinklers loom this summer under Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate to reduce urban water use by 25 percent to get through the drought. The State Water Resources Control Board released an updated plan over the weekend assigning each local water agency a mandatory target for reducing water consumption. Here are some things to know about this plan:


Why is the state doing this?

California is far from running out of water, but it’s not clear when the drought is going to end. Saving water is the cheapest and most efficient way to make sure communities have enough water if the drought persists.


How will California reach 25 percent conservation?

Under the board’s latest plan, each community has a water reduction mandate of between 8 percent and 36 percent, depending on past use. The state believes it’s going to be easier for water-guzzling cities and desert resorts to make huge cuts by neglecting big lawns. Water-frugal communities with few lawns such as San Francisco are less able to conserve even more.


Is everyone on board?

Dozens of cities have blasted the water reduction targets as unfair and unrealistic. The plan also has highlighted regional tensions. Diverse regions of the state, from wealthy beach towns to rural Central Valley communities, are jockeying for limited water. Some agencies that have conserved for years complain that they are lumped in with cities that just started metering water use. Others say they are being punished with large cuts even after preparing for the drought by building local storage supplies and water-saving technology.


How is the state responding to the complaints?

The board has added more tiers of water reductions and tied them to water use last summer in an attempt to reward communities that cut back after the drought began. As a result, some communities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana have easier targets, while others such as San Bernardino and Sacramento-area agencies have to cut back even more.


What didn’t change?

Communities are still not getting smaller targets for investing in local drought-preparation projects or making big cutbacks before the drought. Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus says such efforts are important to long-term conservation, but the board is focused on short-term water savings to prepare in case the current drought gets worse.


What if communities don’t meet their targets?

Communities with pitiful savings face hefty fines, although the water board says that’s a last resort. The board says it will focus on helping communities find ways to drive down use. The state does have the power to intervene, including changing local water rates.


What’s next?

The water reduction targets are still being revised as the board prepares to vote in early May.

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