Gavin Newsom proposes ban on watering decorative grass in California: What that means

Amid California’s worsening drought conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday called on local water agencies to introduce new water-use restrictions and for state regulators to ban watering decorative grass at businesses and institutions, the governor’s office said in a statement.

In the executive order, the governor asks the California State Water Resources Control Board to consider making it illegal to water non-functional grass at commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. The restriction would not include residential lawns or grass used for recreation such as sports fields and parks, the governor’s office said.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said it also does not include golf courses, many of which are irrigated with recycled, nonpotable water.

“The Department of Water Resources estimates this ban alone will result in potential water savings of several hundred thousand acre-feet,” the governor’s office said. “An acre-foot of water serves the needs of approximately three households for a year.”

This news comes amid a historically dry start to the year and as the state prepares for the hot summer months. California saw the driest January and February in recorded history in 2022 and March is likely to be unusually dry as well.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” Newsom said in a statement. “Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. Amid climate-driven extremes in weather, we must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life. ”

The executive order also calls on local water agencies to toughen water-use restrictions and enact, at a minimum, Level 2 water contingency plans, which means that an agency might limit the number of days residents can water outdoors. While some agencies are already operating at this level, and have implemented water conservation restrictions to prepare for a water shortage of up to 20%, some agencies are still below Level 1.

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