AP Nation / World
By Scott Smith
Jan 25, 2017 – 1:59 AM EST
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Much of California has gone from withered to water-logged this winter, but the state’s top water regulator is not ready to lift emergency conservation measures enacted during the height of the drought.
“It makes the most sense to continue steady as she goes,” State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus told The Associated Press after the latest in a series of storms brought more snow to the mountains and record-breaking rainfall to parts of Southern California.
Marcus and the other four board members will decide Feb. 7 whether to extend measures requiring local water districts to enforce conservation rules, provide monthly reports on water usage and show they have a three-year water supply.
January typically is the wettest month in California. Marcus said in interviews this week that she is concerned that subsequent months could turn out dry and that California could again be forced to scramble to save water if the restrictions are not kept in place.
Water districts have been lobbying the board to back down. They say they are committed to conservation and better positioned than the state to ensure residents do not return to old habits.
“We do strongly object to doing this under the banner of a drought emergency that everybody sees no longer exists,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, a group representing water districts serving 6 million of California’s nearly 40 million residents.
Local water agencies plan for dry spells, he said, and many have invested many millions of dollars into shoring up reserve water supplies.
California has endured more than five years of drought. In January 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency, later ordering residents statewide to cut water use by 25 percent – the first mandate of its kind in the state’s history.
With more normal weather last year, drought conditions eased, prompting regulators to relax restrictions. But Quinn said maintaining the state’s emergency declaration gives water regulators extraordinary authority to require cutbacks from districts even if they have ample supplies. Water districts fear losing the public’s trust, he said.
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