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AKIPRESS.COM - California regulators on Tuesday approved emergency statewide rules that allow fines against water wasters after a call for voluntary reductions failed to curb enough use as a three-year drought worsens, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said.
The California State Water Resources Control Board passed an emergency measure that sets fines of $500 a day on residential and business property owners if they overwater lawns to the point that runoff flows onto streets or sidewalks. Residents washing cars without shutoff nozzles on hoses would also face penalties.
After three years of record-low rainfall, 80 percent of the most populous U.S. state is now experiencing extreme drought. Reservoirs are 45 percent below normal levels, and farmers have left fallow an estimated half-million acres in the nation’s most productive agricultural region. The dry spell is likely to boost the prices of food nationwide, and farm and shipping interests stand to lose billions in revenue.
Some communities have been forced to restrict water use to a fraction of normal levels and truck in bottled water as supplies dwindle. Campfires have been prohibited, and wildfires are on the rise, as millions of acres of dry brush are primed to burn. Salmon and steelhead trout populations are at risk as river levels decline.
The proposed state regulations would prohibit the use of fountains and other ornamental water features unless they are equipped with recirculation pumps. Residents also would be barred from washing driveways and sidewalks. Local water agencies throughout the state would need to begin enforcing outdoor restrictions, such as limiting lawn watering to certain days of the week.
The drought will cost California $2.2 billion in 2014 and result in 17,000 lost farming jobs, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis.