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Newsom says California could get mandatory water restrictions as drought crisis deepens – San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Monday that California could see mandatory water restrictions if significant cutbacks in water usage are not made by summer.

Last July, Newsom called for a 15% reduction in the amount of water Californians use. But the state has come nowhere near to meeting that target — savings are at less than 4% since Newsom issued the request.

And usage has crept up during the spring months, when little rain fell. In March, for example, statewide water usage increased by nearly 19% compared with the same month in 2020.

“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom said in a statement that followed a meeting with local and regional water officials.

The multi-year drought has dried up streams and lakes, harmed wildlife, sent wildfire risk soaring and caused many local water agencies across the state to restrict lawn watering.

On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board will vote on whether to ban watering of “non-functional turf” outside of commercial and industrial buildings across California.

The board is also likely to tell California water suppliers to be prepared for the possibility that their water allocations will be 20% lower than normal.

At the moment, only about half of Californians are subjected to water restrictions, which come from their local agencies. But the water board could ensure that every city will be part of a plan for less usage.

The state is urging Californians to reduce their outdoor watering, which is the biggest source of usage in major cities. Shorter showers, washing full loads of laundry (rather than partial loads), using a broom rather than a hose for outdoor cleaning, and other water-saving measures are also encouraged.

Kate Galbraith is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kgalbraith@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kategalbraith