Board approves new water restrictions for California

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- California's Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday voted to enact a whole series of new water restrictions as well as extending some existing restrictions that were due to expire.

Some of the new restrictions may seem tame, but every drop of water counts when you're counting those drops by the trillions. The State Water Resource Control Board voted to give local water agencies new standards to enforce as well as more enforcement powers.

"It is necessary because we are in the worst drought that our grandparents have ever experienced and want our urban areas to be resilient enough to weather what could be a very dry next year or two," said SAYS Felicia Marcus, the Water Resource Board Chairwoman.

The big change? Local water agencies that have not already restricted lawn and garden watering must adopt a twice a week standards. Water agencies that already adopted restrictions -- even if they are more liberal -- can keep them.

Another big difference: homeowners are barred from sprinkling their lawn on rainy days and the following two days. This is because urban watering constitutes 44 percent of home use.

"The rules about outdoor landscaping could potentially save a good deal of water in California." says Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute.

Water agencies must notify users to repair leaks if the agency learns or someone tells the agencies of them. Other restrictions include not allowing restaurants to bring water to your table unless you specifically ask for it. Hotels must install room signs giving guests the option to decline fresh towels and linens to save water.

"Those are educational rather than big water savings," said Gleick.

Continuing existing restrictions include no hosing down sidewalks, driveways and patios, no watering outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes excessive runoff and no water features such as fountains and ponds unless it has a recalculating system.

Additionally, washing cars is restricted unless using a hose fitted with a shut-off nozzle. But it still may not be nearly enough.

"We're going have to move to more mandatory restrictions on some of the things that we're doing. Voluntary regulations haven't gotten us where we need to get," said Gleick.

While fines have been increased, very little has been said about how these new rules can be enforced.