California Will Impose Water Restrictions for the First Time in History

By: Julia Mehalko | Last updated: Jul 12, 2024

California will impose water restrictions for the first time in the state’s history. These permanent restrictions come after California’s Water Resources Control Board has finally approved a policy that has long been debated.

Environmental activists and many government officials have wanted to see water restrictions throughout the state, as they believe it will help California as a whole, particularly during droughts.

Water Restrictions in California

The Water Resources Control Board has officially approved a policy that has been in the works for years. The policy, coined Making Conservation a California Way of Life, was first pushed by legislation former Governor Jerry Brown signed back in 2018.

A person filling up a glass of water from a sink faucet.

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Now, this policy aims to decrease statewide water use as a whole. These water reductions and restrictions will help ensure droughts aren’t as severe as they’ve been in the past, according to supporters.


Who Is Getting Their Water Restricted?

This policy doesn’t restrict water usage for everyone. Instead, it only mandates that retail water suppliers reduce their usage by about 30% in the next 15 years.

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Therefore, this restriction doesn’t mandate the water usage of individual households or California residents. It also doesn’t restrict the water of businesses.

Fines on Water Suppliers

If these retail water suppliers do not follow these new mandates and guidelines, then they will face daily fines. According to this new policy, they can face $10,000 in daily fines.

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The government is hoping this threat of daily fines will encourage these water suppliers to actually follow the water restriction guidelines they are given.

How Water Will Be Reduced

The policy has also stated that it is up to the individual retail water suppliers to find out how they will end up reducing their overall water usage over the next 15 years.

A close-up of water dripping from a sink faucet.

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They likely will encourage their customers to reduce their own water usage. They may find success in this by pushing customers to use low-flow appliances. Imposing their own restrictions may also help.

Different Regions Will Have Different Restrictions

This policy is also analyzing each supplier and region to understand how best to put forth these water restrictions. Therefore, not every supplier or region will actually see notable restrictions.

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These reductions will be based on overall water consumption seen in the region’s past, as well as land use and climate.


Bay Area Water Reductions

For example, the Bay Area doesn’t actually overuse a ton of water. Historically, water usage in the region as a whole hasn’t been high — it has actually been quite low.

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Therefore, this region won’t see any major reductions, especially when compared to other parts of California.


Los Angeles County’s Water Usage

Los Angeles County, as a whole, is another story. Interestingly, it appears reductions will vary by region within the county, as it’s so big.

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So, California American Water Company – Los Angeles Division will only see a reduction of about 15% by 2040. Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Waterworks District 40 – Antelope Valley will see a much higher reduction of 42% by 2040.


Critics Denounce Policy

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are many critics who have openly disagreed with this new policy. Various water agencies have criticized this water policy from the get-go.

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However, even many environmental activists and groups have disagreed with this policy, mainly because they believe the water restrictions should have been much higher.


When This New Policy Goes Into Effect

Now that the board has finally agreed on this policy, it will officially go into effect on January 1, 2025.

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The board has also explained that this means the first round of water cuts must occur by 2027, in order to meet these various 2040 water usage goals.


Helping California Through Droughts

As a whole, California has recently had a rough time with various, ongoing droughts throughout the state.

A close-up of brown drought land.

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These droughts have led many to believe that water reductions during normal periods would help conserve water — and, therefore, greatly help the entire state when these periods of droughts eventually return. Unfortunately, California will always be prone to droughts.


A Historic Summer

This recent water restriction policy also comes during a historic week for much of the state, as various towns and counties have seen record-breaking temperatures this summer.

An orange sky seen during sunset over hills and trees in California.

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Areas like Palm Springs and Death Valley have reached new highs during this latest excessive heat wave.