After a series of storms in December, Californians were hopeful that the drought beleaguering the state would be alleviated.  Unfortunately, that hope dried up when precipitation slowed, and January and February were the driest in over 100 years.  In March, the snowpack was reduced to 63 percent of the normal amount which led the State Water Project to reduce water allocations from 15 percent set in January to only five percent and prompted the governor to issue an executive order in response to ongoing drought conditions.

The State Water Project is a collection of canals, pipelines reservoirs, and hydroelectric power facilities that delivers clean water to 27 million Californians, 750,000 acres of farmland, and businesses throughout the state and has been pivotal in the population and economic growth of the state.  According to the California Department of Water Resources, 30 percent of the water is used for irrigation, primarily in Central California, and 70 percent for residential, municipal, and industrial use in the Bay area and Southern California.  The impact of the reductions will be felt differently across the state as not all water agencies depend on water from the State Water Project.

To offset the water deficiency, voluntary cutbacks were put in place in July 2021 with the goal of 15 percent reduction in water use.  Voluntary actions have produced meager results, savings of not even half of the goal, and January disappointingly showed an increase in water use by nearly three percent from the previous January.[1]  With the dry summer months looming, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring water suppliers to launch “Level 2” water shortage responses which would address up to a 20 percent shortfall.[2]  The order also directs Water Boards to consider banning irrigation for “non-functional turf” at industrial and commercial buildings. Protections for groundwater were also included by placing limits on permitting for new wells.  Agriculture was not included in the executive order which is troubling to many as the industry uses the most water across the state, though water use will inevitably be diminished as the number of acres fallowed increases.  Also troubling is that limits are not placed on irrigation for residential or recreational lawns.

Both the State Water Project reductions and the items enumerated in the executive order are geared toward not only conserving water but also preserving future water availability.  Despite many individuals and businesses having continued to operate under the conservation guidelines enacted in the last drought under Gov. Jerry Brown, many maintain that new mandatory statewide cuts are overdue and question what it will take for those restrictions to be enacted.

[1] Becker, Rachel. “Newsom Imposes New California Water Restrictions - Leaves Details to Locals.” CalMatters, 28 Mar. 2022,

[2] Smith, Hayley, and Jonah Valdez. “Newsom Calls for More Aggressive Water Conservation amid Third Year of Drought.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2022,