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State adopts new water rules to prohibit unnecessary waste


California water officials have adopted drought rules that prohibit the wasting of water in cities and towns throughout the state and that aim to discourage such practices as hosing off driveways or allowing water to run in streets.

Regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board prohibit overwatering lawns, washing cars without a shutoff nozzle, hosing down sidewalks or watering grass within 48 hours after rainfall.

Even after December brought downpours across California and record snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada, state water officials stressed that a drought remains and that efforts to conserve water should continue.

“These are just the practical everyday things that we all can be doing,” said Sean Maguire, a member of the state water board. He said the measures in the emergency drought regulations will “help with that mindset of water savings.”

The new rules also prohibit, among other things, using potable water to irrigate grass on public street medians or landscaped areas between the street and sidewalk; using potable water for street cleaning or construction purposes; and using potable water for decorative fountains or filling artificial lakes or ponds, with some exceptions.

Violators could face fines of up to $500. The temporary rules, which will be in effect for one year, are similar to measures that were put in place during the last severe drought from 2012 to 2016.

Eric Oppenheimer, the water board’s chief deputy director, said the new rules should help boost conservation and also help raise awareness about the need to continue conserving.

“Despite record levels of precipitation so far this winter in some areas, we are not out of the woods yet. Parts of our water system are still under stress brought on by the drought, and climate change means that there is substantial uncertainty in weather patterns,” Oppenheimer said, adding that the new rules are “commonsense measures to save water as California faces more extreme cycles of wet and dry conditions driven by climate change.”

The board adopted the rules after announcing that Californians reduced water usage 6.8 percent statewide in November compared to the same month the previous year. Gov. Gavin Newsom in July urged Californians to voluntarily reduce water use 15 percent, but much of the state has lagged behind that goal.