California Expected to Set Water Restrictions

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In an attempt to help curb the impact of a three-year drought, California is likely to soon issue a first-time mandatory water restriction.

The California State Water Resources Control Board is expected to pass the emergency measure Tuesday, as reservoirs across the state and in the region are dwindling. Officials have stated that the new mandate would ban practices such as washing cars without hoses equipped with a shut-off nozzle, and allowing sprinkler water to run off lawns onto streets. Maximum fines for violations would be $500, enforceable by local water agencies.

California's Lake Oroville presently stands at 39 percent capacity, while Nevada's Lake Mead, which is the largest supply of drinking water in the Southwest, has sunk to its lowest level since it began filling in the 1930s after the completion of the Hoover Dam.

Lake Oroville looking low:

California Governor Jerry Brown had urged all Californians to conserve water voluntarily in January, in hopes of cutting wasteful use by twenty percent. A statewide water survey conducted in May revealed that voluntary efforts had yielded savings of only five percent. State and federal agencies have sharply reduced water shipments in California, with farmers, ranchers and some cities in the northern part of the state feeling the greatest effects.

Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the California water board, remarked, "There is a need for people to take more dramatic action. We are saying: 'For heaven's sake, don't waste water.'"

The water shortage in California has also affected seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault. The fault, a continental transform that runs roughly 810 miles through California, is being affected by irrigation practices in the area, according to a study by Geologist Colin Amos from Western Washington University.

Satellite data has shown that groundwater in and near the California Central Valley has been depleted more quickly than it can be re-filled over the past decade, and Amos’ study related the water in association to the mountains in the area as being akin to a weight sitting atop a piece of bendable wood. As the water is depleted, its weight is lifted, which in turn pushes the mountains to rise from the Earth’s crust.

Amos confirmed that seasonal fluctuations in water usage have coincided with minor earthquakes around the San Andreas Fault, and that new developments for water usage and natural groundwater retention need to be implemented.

Image via Wikimedia Commons