While an El Niño rainy season skewed North and left California drier than anticipated, the State Water Resources Control Board met, as expected, to revisit our mandatory 25 percent water use reduction restrictions. Those measures, which were announced in April 2015 and quickly amended to place certain cities, such as San Francisco, in a more lenient water usage tier, have been suspended entirely, the New York Times reports. In their place, new rules taking effect on June 1 will instruct communities to set their own guidelines, which the state will review in turn.
“We are still in a drought, but we are no longer in the-worst-snow-pack-in-500-years drought,” the head of that Water Board, Felicia Marcus, tells the Times. “We had thought we are heading toward a cliff. We were worried we were in our own Australian millennial drought. We wanted to make sure people didn’t keep pouring water on their lawns with wild abandon.”
"I’m looking forward to a good-faith effort by the water agencies,” Water Board member Steven Moore tells the Chronicle. Some local areas, such as East Bay Municipal Utility District, have already stopped penalizing water guzzlers, and the SFPUC has been considering dropping mandatory rationing for golf courses and private parks.
Local agencies are being told to set their savings targets such that they will have water supplies for three dry years. The Water Board will return to the question of state restriction next January to assess how local restrictions are working and will consider putting its own restrictions back in place if necessary. “If it’s looking like people have forgotten about the fact that there’s a drought, and gone back to wholesale water wasting, we’ll take that into consideration,” the climate and conservation manager for the board, Max Gomberg, tells the Times.
Finally, if you thought this meant you'd be getting water at restaurants automatically, without having to request it through parched lips, you're mistaken. That policy, along with a rule that allows hotel guests to nix laundry service, remains in place.