The grass in front of Emanuel Medical Center and Stanislaus State is going to turn brown.
So is the grass in front of churches, non-play areas at school campuses, commercial and industrial properties and in landscaped corridors.
It will happen due to an emergency state order issued last week that such watering of grass areas will not be allowed starting June 10 as the acute drought griping California deepens. It applies to all turf in front or next to industrial and commercial buildings and that of institutional properties such as cemeteries, schools, government facilities, colleges, and such. Grass that can't be watered includes anything that's used for decoration and not for regular activities or events.
The State Water Resources Control Board order will not impact the ability to water grass used for recreation such as in parks or on playing fields. Nor will it impact water used to keep grass green at residences or to maintain trees. It also applies to grass managed by homeowners' associations but not individual residents. Violators can be fined $500 per day.
The order banning specific grass areas from being watered is part of the state’s contingency plans to cope with up to a 20 percent shortage of water. If the drought continues into a fourth year or gets more severe before then, there are more drastic water cutbacks in the contingency plan that will be implemented.
Tuesday’s order came on the heels of Californians overall failing to comply with Governor Gavin Newsom’s call over the past 10 months to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 15 percent compared the previous year.
In March 2022, the state’s urban retail water suppliers reported average water use statewide that was nearly 19% greater than in March 2020, lowering the state’s cumulative water savings since July 2021 to 3.7%.
Newsom convened leaders from the state’s largest urban water suppliers last week imploring them to take more aggressive action to combat drought.
“The severity of this drought requires all Californians to save water in every possible way,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “The regulation compels water systems and local authorities to implement a range of additional critical conservation measures as we enter the hot and dry summer months.”
California is in its third year of an acute drought, part of a two-decade megadrought facing the U.S. West that scientists say is the worst in 1,200 years. Hotter temperatures are also exacerbating the state's water challenges as people have started to water their lawns earlier than normal. This January through March marked California's driest winter in at least a century.
The order comes after the state via the State Water Project as well as the federal government via the Central Valley Project severely cut or eliminated contracted water deliveries for the rest of the year.
“(The) State Water Board emergency water conservation regulation continues to demonstrate how serious this year’s drought is,” noted Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Bureau Water Coalition in a press release.”
Water conservation measures are reaching farther and farther into our communities and now go beyond the water supply cuts felt by California farms and rural communities earlier this year.
The taps that deliver surface water to the farms that grow food bought at grocery stores were effectively turned off in March and April. Almost half of the irrigated farmland in California has had its surface water supply reduced by 50% or more.
“We live in an increasingly unstable world, but politicians and regulators are not doing the work needed to guard our safe, affordable, domestic food supply during these uncertain times. Failing to act will not only worsen rising food costs, they may permanently disrupt the food systems that many now take for granted,” Wade noted.
"California farms produce over half of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables. California foods aren’t just in the produce aisle, but also in the ready-made foods and ingredients we eat every single day. That can’t happen without water and we cannot simply move California production to other states. A safe, affordable, domestic food supply is a national security issue, just like energy. The government must make it a priority.”
Turlock’s water rules
The stricter water rules that were adopted for Turlock residents and businesses in July 2021 are as follows:
*No irrigation is allowed during or within 48 hours following measurable rainfall as defined by storms that generate run-off or puddles.
*No watering is allowed on any day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Watering for even addresses is on Tuesday and Saturday while odd addresses can water on Wednesday and Sunday.
*No water will be allowed on any day at any time for washing off sidewalks, driveways, patios, parking lots or other exterior non-landscaped areas without a permit.
*Filling of wading pools is permitted but "Slip-n-Slides" are prohibited.
*Washing of vehicles at a residence is allowed only if a positive shut-off valve (nozzle) is used, in proper operating condition and is limited to one washing per week.
Turlock also has an Excessive Water Use Penalty of $25 for those customers who use more than 40,000 gallons of water in any billing period. The Excessive Water Use online course may be taken to waive the first incidence of a penalty only.