California Lifts Many Water-Use Restrictions

Gov. Newsom lifted all but about 33 of the more than 80 emergency drought orders he issued since last spring.   April 5, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

Institutional and commercial facilities nationwide have been taking large and small steps in recent decades to curtail water use in plumbing, HVAC and irrigation systems. Their goals generally have been related to sustainability and cost control. For facilities in California, additional motivation has come from the state’s governor, who imposed water restrictions in response to state-wide droughts. 

Now, a major change in the weather has led Gov. Gavin Newsom to rescind some of the restrictions. 

After being soaked by an onslaught of storms that have flooded towns, saturated fields and heaped the Sierra Nevada with a near-record snowpack, Californians are getting relief from a host of drought restrictions that were imposed last year during a historic dry spell, according to The New York Times

Newsom lifted all but about 33 of the more than 80 emergency drought orders he issued since last spring. The past three years have been the driest in recorded history in California. Last spring, state water officials reported that California’s largest reservoirs were at one-half of their historical averages and that the snowpack was at just 14 percent of average. The government’s official drought-tracking service found that more than 90 percent of the state was in severe or extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

Since then, however, a dozen powerful atmospheric rivers have swept through California, and Los Angeles has recorded more than two feet of rain, about 200 percent of normal since the current season began in October. Similar levels of rain have fallen in San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and other cities. 

Now, only about one-third of the state was experiencing any drought, and only about 8.5 percent was in severe or worse drought. Major reservoirs are so full that water is being released from some of them to make way for the inevitable thaw of a colossal snowpack that is nearing triple the average size for this time of year, said Mike Anderson, the state climatologist. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.


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