California water restrictions could extend to Mill Valley

MILL VALLEY, Calif. — Some of the driest months on record in California have put residents at risk this summer.

Yuba City has become one of the first communities in northern California to impose mandatory water restrictions amid a “severe shortage”. Residents will have to limit landscape watering to Mondays and Thursdays, use only hoses with a shut-off nozzle and turn off fountains without recirculation, the city said in a news release.

“This is a direct response to the current water supply shortage that is occurring with the ongoing drought and the recent issuance of an Executive Order calling for 20% water conservation over use of 2020,” city officials wrote in a statement.

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In April 2021, the Municipal Water District of Marin proposed a district-wide reduction target of 40% and imposed similar restrictions for all of the towns it serves, including Mill Valley. Sprinkler or drip systems are only permitted twice a week and only from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., although water days are not assigned. Drained pools for which a building permit was issued after December 1, 2021 are not permitted. Residents are also not allowed to wash driveways, sidewalks, public medians and streets with potable water.

Meanwhile, six million residents of Southern California cities will face water restrictions on June 1. Outdoor water in dozens of Southland towns will be limited to just one day a week, according to the Metropolitan Water District, which serves 18 million people.

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“This is a crisis unlike anything we have seen before,” said Deven Upadhyay, chief executive of MWD.

While conserving water in all facets of daily life is helpful, officials have identified outdoor watering as one of the major contributing factors to water scarcity. Thanks to water conservation efforts, yellow and brown lawns will be the norm this summer.

Residents across California have been urged to make water-saving changes, such as removing lawns and replacing them with native plants that require less irrigation.

During the annual Sierra Nevada snowpack survey on April 1, officials found levels were just 38% of average. The state received 15.63 inches of rain this year, or 75% of the historical average, according to California Water Watch.

This, coupled with Governor Gavin Newsom’s emergency drought declaration in January, could eventually trigger another summer of statewide water restrictions.

Despite the right mix of snow and rain in Northern California last month, the state continues to descend into drought.

State emergency regulations, which apply in the Municipal Water District of Marin, require residents to:

  • Turn off decorative water fountains.
  • Turn off/pause the irrigation system when it rains and for two days after the rain.
  • Use an automatic shut-off nozzle on water pipes.
  • Use a broom, not water, to clean sidewalks and driveways.
  • Give the trees just the water they need: avoid overwatering.

To save water inside the home, residents can fix leaky pipes, buy a low-flow showerhead, install low-flush toilets, retrofit old dishwashers, and install a water aerator on the kitchen sink.

Last month, Newsom called on water providers statewide to step up conservation efforts by advancing contingency plans for water shortages.

State legislators recently took a first step toward lowering the standard for how much water people use in their homes.

California’s current standard for indoor residential water use is 55 gallons per person per day. The rule does not apply directly to customers, meaning regulators do not cite individuals for using more water than allowed. Instead, the state requires water agencies to meet this standard for all of its customers.

But the state Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to lower the standard to 47 gallons per person per day from 2025 and 42 gallons per person per day from 2030.

The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, which means there are likely to be months before it becomes law.

According to the National Integrated Drought System, most of Northern California and 92% of the state is facing severe drought conditions. Such conditions have the potential to lengthen and intensify the fire season as fuels continue to dry out. Severe drought can also stress trees, prompt plants to increase their reproductive mechanisms, and increase disease among wildlife.

Much of central Northern California is subject to extreme drought. In extreme conditions, livestock often require expensive supplementary feed because there is little pasture left, the fire season can last all year, and there is insufficient water for agriculture. The reservoirs in these areas are also extremely low.

The western United States is in the midst of a severe drought just years after record rains and snowfall filled reservoirs to capacity.

Scientists say this boom and bust cycle is driven by climate change which will be marked by longer and more severe droughts. A study earlier this year found the American West was in the midst of a mega-drought that is now the driest in at least 1,200 years.

– Patch staffer Kat Schuster and Associated Press contributed to this report.