California water regulators announced new drought rules on Monday that will loosen mandatory conservation targets while making permanent some of the measures that have helped reduce water use during the past year.
The state’s new approach, laid out in an executive order signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is aimed at striking a balance between easing the mandatory cutbacks during a wetter year while also preparing for the five-year drought to continue.
“We must remember that one near-average water year in parts of California is no assurance of what next year will bring,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “This year could simply be a punctuation mark in a multiyear mega-drought.”
Under proposed regulations released by the board, local water agencies will be able to “self-certify” their available water supplies and the level of conservation they deem necessary. Marcus said that will lead to a more locally tailored approach rather than the across-the-board mandates the state adopted last year.
California’s mandatory conservation targets helped achieve a statewide reduction of 23.9 percent in urban water use between June 2015 and March 2016, as compared to 2013, which has been used as a baseline year.