California water suppliers back plan to manage conservation

FILE - In this June 2015 file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown, sitting top far left, speaks with board members of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California during their monthly meeting in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

FILE - In this June 2015 file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown, sitting top far left, speaks with board members of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California during their monthly meeting in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

FRESNO — Officials with water districts throughout drought-stricken California said Wednesday they support a proposed move to put the agencies in control of conservation after a wet winter eased conditions in some parts of the state.

A proposal being considered by the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento would allow local districts to compare their water supplies and demand then set savings goals into January.

Shannon Catullo of the South Tahoe Public Utility District and other officials told the board they favor the plan.

At her home in Irvine, Lee Nguyen says she’s done her part to save water and supports local control over conservation efforts.

“I wash my veggies and I save water,” she said, explaining that she uses it on her plants. “I save water for myself, for all of us, and for the environment.”

Her supplier, the Irvine Ranch Water District in Orange County, led the push for a regional approach. Fiona Sanchez, director of water resources for the district, said she is confident that districts statewide will carefully study their supply and demand ratio.

“If agencies are not taking it seriously, it will be very evident they can’t meet their customers’ demands,” she said.

If the change is made, some districts might set strict conservation goals for residents and businesses, while others could determine it is time to lift conservation mandates altogether.

California is in its fifth year of drought. Regulators are considering the new approach after El Nino storms delivered nearly average amounts of rain and snow this winter in Northern California, filling key reservoirs.

Southern California, however, remains deep in drought.

Bans on wasting water by washing sidewalks with a hose or cars without a shut-off nozzle would become permanent under the proposed regulation.

Max Gomberg, a senior climate scientist for the state water board, said Californians understand the drought remains critical. He doesn’t expect people to suddenly begin wasting water with any changes.

“Californians have shown that when there’s a serious drought and a need to conserve, people step up and pitch in,” he said.

The new approach would be welcomed by Southern California landscaper Greg Gritters, who says local water officials are best suited to manage their supplies.

His clients have had to choose between keeping their lawns green at the expense of huge water bills or turn down their sprinklers and watch their yard turn brown.

“Either way they’re unhappy,” said Gritters, owner of Vintage Landscape in Coachella Valley.CaliforniaCalifornia droughtFresnoSacramentoSouth TahoeState Water Resources Control BoardWater districts

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