California to ban water use and repurpose forests

More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply State water officials have announced they will soon take a step beyond last year’s voluntary water restrictions and impose an…

California to ban water use and repurpose forests

More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply

State water officials have announced they will soon take a step beyond last year’s voluntary water restrictions and impose an outright ban on more than two dozen water uses and a statewide “water in, water out” rule.

This decision is the first major move, though not the last, by the Department of Water Resources as it seeks to restore California’s ailing water supply and reduce reliance on the Colorado River. The move comes just as Gov. Jerry Brown, who has called for a drastic reduction in water use, makes his much-anticipated address on the water crisis.

The restrictions announced Wednesday will reduce usage by 1,829,000 acre-feet from last year’s levels. That’s an amount equivalent to the total amount California took out of the Colorado River’s water supply in a single water year from April 2013 through March 2014, when a drought gripped the state.

The new ban on water use will be in effect for the following water years: 2014, 2015, 2016, and beyond. Brown is scheduled to announce the state’s new guidelines at a news conference Thursday.

The restrictions will have an immediate impact on business and agriculture as water restrictions typically have little lasting impact. But, for residents, the changes may have an unexpected impact.

“The water restrictions will affect us with the way people are going to be able to use that water,” said Jeff Martin, a farmer in Sonoma County. “We’re going to have to water our lawns and the garden with it.”

“It’s going to be a very big change.”

State officials said they are adopting new guidelines to account for the new water restrictions and to ensure residents have access to sufficient water.

The restrictions will be implemented at the same time that an estimated 9.3 million acres of state forests that had been cleared will begin being repurposed for conservation and habitat restoration, state officials said.

That change from “logging” to “preservation” is a significant milestone. It’s also a move that doesn’t yet address the question of how much revenue the State Water Project will enjoy from any increase in sales of diverted water, since water sales are one of the main sources of additional revenue

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