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California Might Lower Water Cutback Goals in Some Places

Most of California has been really good about meeting the mandatory water cutbacks that have been in place since earlier this year (though there have been some notable LA-area failures), and perhaps that's encouraged the state's water board to be a bit more open to the idea of slightly easing the restrictions in some places. The LA Times reports that the State Water Resources Control Board has suggested easing the restrictions after "a number of water districts complained that their individual targets failed to take into account regional climate or other factors." In light of that, regulators want to reduce the originally mandated 25 percent cuts to 22 percent.

The suggested reduction is a concession to some of the water districts complaints (other complaints were pretty much dismissed)—the newly proposed 22 percent reduction takes into account a water district's climate, developmental growth, and use of recycled or desalinated water. With the "credits," California overall would cut back 22 percent instead of 25 percent on its water use. "We're recognizing that there are concerns about equity that were raised, and we're addressing them with these modest adjustments. But we're maintaining a strong statewide conservation level," the board's climate and conservation manager tells the Times.

If the predicted rainy El Niño materializes this winter, that's likely to mean changes in the restrictions too. "If we really do get a strong El Niño … I could see reducing it or even potentially getting rid of it," the manager says. "But conversely, if El Niño doesn't show up and we're in year five and things are as bad or worse than last year, it could go up from 22%."

Some areas that stand to benefit from the adjusted restrictions are Orange County, "which replenishes its groundwater supplies with recycled water"; San Diego County, which just fired up a desalination plant within its boundaries; and "hot inland and desert areas" of the state. The water board hasn't decided whether to adopt the recommendations yet. They're taking public comment until January 6, at which point they'll put out a draft version; they'll vote on the matter in February.
· California water regulators suggest slight easing of conservation requirements [LAT]
· See How Badly All the LA Water Districts Missed Their Goals For Drought Cutbacks [Curbed LA]