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Governor orders mandatory reduction in water-use

Original post made on Apr 1, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown today issued an executive order for statewide mandatory water use reductions, the first-ever order in California's history, according to the governor's office.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 11:50 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by David Harkness
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Do the mandates include switching away from water-intensive crops and using more efficient irrigation techniques? Do they apply to the agriculture industry, where the vast majority (80-90% IIRC) of water is used?

Posted by
a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Yes! This is very much needed, whether in Mountain View or elsewhere in the State. Whisman Station communities have been in the process of replacing much of our grass areas with drought-tolerant landscaping (and we continue to tackle additional areas), yet there is more we can do, and having State mandates and incentives to move efforts ahead are fantastic.

Posted by mom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm

So we'll use less, but we'll get charged more because the water district already has a contract to buy a certain amount.

Web Link

Posted by OldMV
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm

My understanding of the order is that the 25% reduction is based upon last year's usage. We already were aggressively conserving last year. Does this mean that we will be equally penalized along with people who still were wasting water? There must be some relief mechanism for families who can prove that they already were aggressively conserving. We're near rock bottom minimum usage.

Posted by OldMV
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Correction to my previous post with apology. The 25% cutback is relative to 2013 water usage levels, not 2014. We were conserving then too, but not nearly as aggressively as in 2014, so we should be OK.

David Harkness raises a very interesting issue. Will farmers also be expected to cut back water usage by 25%? There's a real problem implementing that, because a lot of farm water usage is not metered, particularly well water, so they have no 2013 baselines. I'm truly amazed that farmers, which use at about 3/4 of the state's water, are not fully metered as we are. Guess that's CA politics, folks.

Posted by governors authority
a resident of Gemello
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Nothing about the laws in the state gives the governor any right to order water usage reduction.

None the less, this is a great step toward the social re-engineering of an unacceptably free American life style where people feel they have a right to live as they choose, free to spend water as if it was as worthless as money.

Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:55 pm

I just put in a new lawn in 2011. Well when the time comes, I will just have to re-landscape my front yard with drought tolerant plants...make my front yard look like a jungle...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm

The only way to fix this is to remove all water subsidies and price controls and let the price float. It will get much more expensive, which will get everyone to conserve, and will push water wasting agriculture out of the state. Anything else won't work.

I guess I will be paying the penalty, as my 2013 water usage was low because my house was vacant before I bought it, and then, my wife and I lived alone until we had a child and relatives moved in, greatly increasing our water usage.

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm

True is a registered user.


Reduce water to AG? Great idea. Especially on top of the 60% cuts that some valley water districts have seen over the last few years.

It's easy for someone who sits in their little bucolic suburb to say. It's crippling to those businessmen in implemented. Making a substantial reduction in available water means changing crops. Which means the capital equipment to sow/harvest/maintain those crops is now useless and likely can't be sold locally if at all since the other local farmers will be switching away from that crop as well. So the farmer takes a loss on currently owned capital equipment then has to go into significant debt to buy new equipment to service the replacement crop. If that replacement it s a tree crop or vinyard it will be years before yield is up to anything like profitable levels.

This crushes hundreds of farmers every year. Bankrupts them. Puts them out of business and usually forces a sale of their land to corporate agribusiness interests. Con-Agra, ADM ya know...friendly little companies like that.

To say nothing of the impact on food costs which tend to hurt the least affluent amongst us.

Think a bit before you advocate shutting off or seriously cutting back water to valley farmers. The impacts are far worse than most of you imagine and seriously outstrip your brown lawn.

What we should have done decades ago is invest in a few dozen large dams to store the water that in good years that simply runs out under the Golden Gate. We need to bite the bullet and do this now. The population and by extension, water needs in this state are increasing every year. This isn't our first drought and certainly won't be our last.

Posted by Moon Beams
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:44 pm

This is a joke. Farmers use 80% of all H2O in the state, and this "mandatory reduction" does not apply to them. All the farmers have to do is come up with a "written plan".

Let's do the math, shall we? A 25% cut of 20% of the states water consumption comes out to a 5% total reduction. If we only have a 1 year supply of water left in the state as recent NASA research suggested, this gimmick will give us another 18 days of water.

Gov. MoonBeam is clearly playing politics here. He is protecting the farming industry that is only 5% of the GDP of the State of California.

Posted by Water Use
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Water use isn't an inherent evil thing and shortages aren't a certainty. Bad case, Governor Brown. The water users are agriculture which has very wasteful practices. There's been some work on recapturing evaporation from irrigation that has recovered as much as 93% other applied to the crop. That's pretty huge! What is needed is more research and the farmers have to pay enough for the water that they see the value of capturing the waste. Right now the farmers get vastly subsidized water at a fraction of the cost of the suburban lawn. Which user is more wasteful? I'd suspect the one with the lower cost for each gallon of water...

Couple this with the fact that 90% of the usage is for agriculture when you look at the acre feet of applied water (the water taken from our state resources for human usages of all types). The place to reform is agriculture, but agriculture is Big Business and they spend a lot of money on politicians to keep their costs low.

Posted by mr_b
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 2, 2015 at 6:05 am


Please explain why those of us living in suburbia aren't allowed to question the behavior of those in the agriculture business?

The "drought" topic has been thoroughly discussed in the news in California for many, many years now and farmers have been active members in that discussion. And while it's debatable how effective they have been at promoting/defending their position, farmers cannot claim that they didn't see the possibility of a severe water shortage.

If you see a material threat to your business and you don't take appropriate action to prepare or adapt, shouldn't you bear at least some of the blame/responsibility?

As consumers in suburbia, we will see increased food costs either way and so we've earned a voice in this debate. I'd at least like to see cost increases that come from forward-looking farmers/businessmen and not on top of money to bail out those who refused to adapt to the reality of a changing business environment.

Posted by Support the right farmers
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 2, 2015 at 6:29 am

Some farmers ave already made the switch to highly efficient watering systems and they are thriving. Many refuse to alter their behavior or antiquated watering systems one iota, and they are complaining, while they then export their crop to China.

I support the progressive farmers in CA who are taking actions to curb their water waste but I will consistently condemn the wastefulness of the others. No sympathy, and above all else, no gov't bailouts! You should manage your business like the rest of us.

Posted by MikeM
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:16 am

GreenTown Los Altos is having a Lawn Be Gone Bike Tour on April 12 to visit local homes and see what others have done with native and drought tolerant plants. The url is - Web Link

Great opportunity to check out ideas for replacing a lawn.

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 2, 2015 at 10:15 am

True is a registered user.


Question? Sure. Push for improved technologies that will improve efficiency? Absolutely. Examine ways to justly reform our antiquated water rights statues? You bet. Invest in expanding storage (dams)? Shoulda' been done decades ago and needs to be done ASAP.

But the far too easy and far too short-sighted saw of, "Cut back the water to CV farmers (many of whom are already operating with a 60% cut to what they once had) is the sort of unthinking, knee-jerk reaction that got us into this mess.

The sort of thinking that has bankrupted scores of family farms, put many times that number of ag workers out of work (unemployment is in the 30-40% in that sector in some parts of the valley) or forced fallow hundreds of thousands of acres.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

Preserving jobs isn't a good reason to squander water.

CA rainfall is cyclical and chaotic. We've been in an almost 100 year wetter than average period during which agriculture got built out here, but the last few years have been dryer than average. Will we go back to wetter climate? No way to know. CA's had 2-year droughts and 600-year droughts in the past according to tree ring data.

In such a limited water climate, it may not make sense to grow rice or alfalfa or almonds. They don't grow pineapples in Norway, even though it might be technically possible. CA should focus on things which thrive better here.

Posted by Another Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Speaking of ag uses squandering water, the situation is not stagnant. It's well known that they have planted many more Almond and Walnut trees in fairly recent years. These use more water!

When you look at the NASA photos which depict underground water reservoirs, the situation is stark. These cutbacks of "60%" are based on water project delivery rates. What the factory farmers have been doing is depleting more and more of the underground stores to make up for the shortfall in surface water. They have not cut back by 60%, not at all. In fact, many have increased their water use even in this time of drought for the past 4 years. That's because there is no handle on the draw from below ground. This needs to change!

Also, some farmers have legal water rights that they think gives them the right to use as much as they want. At the same time, land which was once viewed as non productive because of a lack of water, over decades, has been put into service with crops that take water, even if they don't have these water rights. Well you can't have it both ways.

Just from a pure volume of water consumed, it's the ag uses (including raising Beef cattle) that have been responsible for the failure to respond to the drought. That's why the sensor pictures from space have gotten so bleak--a complete lack of response to the drought by ag uses.

Posted by All wrong
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm

You anti-farmer nutbags have gotten it all wrong.

From the independent and non-partisan PPIC:

"Water in California is shared across three main sectors.
Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban."

So, it's not 95% ag vs 10% urban. It is 50-40-10. Stop lying!

When you hear the anti-farmer rhetoric, please remember that these guys lie and mislead.

Sorry, but your non-native Kentucky Bluegrass lawn ought not be a luxurious green anymore. Enjoying your golf course? Sorry, but is that really a priority over producing food for millions?

And what is all this claptrap over exporting to China? What does that have to do with anything? If you are so patriotic, then you should stop using any product that was manufactured outside of the United States. And, if you cannot find such a product, then learn to make it yourself. Until you do that, you are to be ignored.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

When one supports saving water by avoiding particularly water intensive crops in a desert climate, that's not synonymous with being an anti-farmer nut bag, it just means not setting up market incentives which encourage wasting water. It shouldn't be profitable to waste water, is all. Farmers will have to adjust by using less water intensive methods, growing less water demanding crops, etc.

At the same time, people shouldn't be growing Kentucky bluegrass. It's not a decision between one of the two, it should all happen. Letting the water price by set by demand would find the most economical allocation of water, a scarce resource. It should also allow water districts to get more money to improve the infrastructure and fix water main leaks, which actually do consume a lot of water as well.

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:31 pm

True is a registered user.


Lots and lots of Dams.....with fish ladders of course.

Posted by Another Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm

"Environmental" is not a use. That refers to leaving water alone where nature puts it.

So when you say 50% is environmental, that's in a so called good year. In reality, we can't just rape the earth and take as much in a drought. The "environmental" ramps up and becomes much more than 50%.

I suppose you are against that too....

Regarding the idea of a 40 to 10 split between agricultural and urban, note that urban includes all manufacturing and industrial uses outside of agriculture as well. In reality, that's about half of the "urban" use. So when you look what people use in their homes, restaurants use to provide food service, and golf courses use to make greens, well, that's only half the urban use even all combined.

Posted by exile
a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Nestlé is pumping out your groundwater for mere pennies and selling it back to you for big bucks. And fracking uses a LOT of water. Fracking in California is like smoking in a fireworks factory...

Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm

" Fracking in California is like smoking in a fireworks factory"

Fracking in California uses something like 0.01 % of the state's water.

Posted by exile
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Earthquakes, Steve.

Posted by K
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Off topic, exile.

Posted by Know what you speak of
a resident of Bailey Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:02 am

Anyone who thinks earthquakes are an off topic discussion when talking about fracking is woefully unaware of how fracking works..and earthquakes for that matter.

Posted by Tamtom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 4, 2015 at 10:06 pm

My understanding is that the 20% cuts are at the water district level. It will be interesting to see how the water district chooses to pass that down to the individual customers. Is everybody expected to cut back 25%? Will there be a per capita allowance and a heavy charge above that? Or if it is too challenging to figure out what the "capita" is, will there be a reasonable priced, but very small baseline, and then heavy charges above that?

As a family that has already switched to bucket baths and using the dishwater to water the plants in our front yard, I think that 20% cuts across the board will just penalize those of us who have already started conserving when voluntary cuts were requested.

Also, did people see the NY times article on per capita user by water district? The difference between summer use and winter use is stark - even in Mountain View (50 gallons versus 88 gallons). But the difference in Los Altos, Menlo Park (I assume Atherton) and Hillsborough is even more stark (Hillsborough used 382 gallons per capita last summer, for example).
Web Link

So I actually think that a 20% across the board cut is not really fair at the district level either - both Mountain View AND Hillsborough should come down to 50 gallons per capita this summer.

Posted by desertrose
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2015 at 6:53 pm

In this area LA County waterworks has informed us of "target water use" (which if you don't comply you will hit triple rates)of 60% or more reduction.
They are the ONLY water board I am aware of using the "averaging" method to determine this target amount.
The "average home is most likely 1200 sq ft w/1 bath and dirt for yards.
This is not the average home in this area.
Just as property taxes are figured on the sq footage of homes - water should be allocated this way, too.;
At least they should have to abide by state mandate (25% cut from 2013 rates)not 60% cut from 2014 rates of usage.
Since there is no way a 3000 sq ft home could get by on the "target amounts "per montheither you have to be rich so you can pay for water or live in the dirt.

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2015 at 10:54 am

My family has cut its water use to the bone, as have many (but sadly not most) of my neighbors. Yet the City of Mountain View continues to water Cuesta Park heavily on a daily basis. The City has a squishy park, and we have brown lawns. Hypocrites

Hey, MV Voice-- how about some coverage of the city's wasteful water practices?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Rengstorff Park

on Sep 26, 2017 at 8:22 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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