Most communities across the state are still relying on voluntary conservation, and Californians in general have fallen far short of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s January call for a 20% cut in water use.
July 16, 2014

You'd think that in a state that's suffering through a drought that people would be more conscientious. Well, maybe they'll start to pay attention when it costs them $500:

Cities throughout California will have to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering under an emergency state rule approved Tuesday.

Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day.

Many Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, already have mandatory restrictions in place.

But most communities across the state are still relying on voluntary conservation, and Californians in general have fallen far short of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s January call for a 20% cut in water use.

The emergency rules, expected to take effect Aug. 1, don’t order cities to slash water use by a certain amount. Rather they direct agencies to — at a minimum — ban wasteful practices such as allowing runoff from outdoor sprinklers, hosing down driveways and sidewalks and using drinking water in ornamental fountains that don’t recirculate.

“It’s not going to be a huge change from what we already have,” said Kevin Pearson, media relations officer of the Eastern Municipal Water District, which has voluntary measures in place for the 768,000 people it serves in western Riverside County.

Los Angeles, which since 2009 has limited outdoor watering to three days a week, is stepping up enforcement of its conservation ordinance and also recently boosted its cash-for-grass rebate to $3 a square foot.

The watering limits would be primarily enforced by local government and water districts, which are expected to issue warnings and fines that escalate with repeat offenses. But the state board would also have enforcement authority.

But in other news, it's business as usual for multinational corporations like Nestle:

Nestle owns Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, which has been bottling water from a spring in Millard Canyon, Calif. for more than a decade. The company’s 383,000-square-foot bottling plant, which also packages purified water under the Nestle Pure Life brand, is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) declared a drought state of emergency in preparation for water shortages, especially during the summer months. The drought has entered its third year, and water restrictions have increased throughout the Golden State.

But Nestle does not need to heed the emergency measures the state has adopted. Since its plant is on a Native American reservation – considered a sovereign nation by the US government – it is not required to comply with state regulations.

The reservation is located in a Mojave Desert oasis at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, 85 miles east of Los Angeles. Drawing water from that location, where just three inches of rain falls each year, prevents water from seeping downhill to fill aquifers of nearby towns struggling for water during the drought.

Throughout 2009, Nestle submitted annual reports to local water districts detailing how much groundwater it was extracting from the Millard Canyon spring. But since then, neither the company nor the Morongo tribe has submitted those forms. Reports compiled by the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency show that the amounts drawn from two wells in the canyon varied from a high of 1,366 acre-feet in 2002 to a low of 595 acre-feet in 2005, according to The Desert Sun. In 2009, Nestle submitted its last report, covering the water pumped from wells during 2008. The company said it pumped 757 acre-feet that year, but none of the reports were ever independently verified.

As usual, it all comes down to jobs vs. the environment:

Calvin Louie, the Cabazon Water District's general manager, summed up the pros and cons of the bottling plant.

"Arrowhead provides a lot of jobs, and that helps the economy,” he said. “On the other hand, Arrowhead has a reputation of going into small communities and taking advantage – and basically, pump them dry and 'good to the last drop.'”

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