Californians won't be able to water their lawns more than twice a week under tougher drought regulations that are expected to be approved Tuesday as the state heads into a fourth particularly dry year.
The State Water Resources Control Board will consider extending current restrictions on outdoor water use, such as a prohibition on washing down driveways, and weigh new ones. Under the board's proposal, residents would also have to wait two days after rainfall to water lawns, ask for water at restaurants and must have an opportunity to decline fresh towels and sheets at hotels.
Reservoirs are going dry as the traditionally rainy winter season is ending without significant storms.
Some drought observers say the state must take more drastic action measures, including rationing. The board hasn't gone that far, and Gov. Jerry Brown has signaled opposition.
"I'm reluctant to expand the coercive power of state authority," Brown said when asked about rationing in a news conference last month. "In a democracy, it is fundamental that citizens be the driving force. It's my job to encourage and inspire and monitor, but before we have, you know, full-scale rationing, we have to have a few more problems than we currently have."
The water board already took an unprecedented step when it imposed statewide restrictions on outdoor water use in July. Under those rules, Californians cannot wash their cars with hoses that don't shut off, and local water departments have limited lawn watering.
These restrictions are backed up with the threat of $500 fines, but few agencies have gone that far. The board has no way to measure whether Californians are following the existing rules because it hasn't been tracking enforcement.
Recognizing the hole in data collection, the board will also consider whether to require local water departments to report how they're ensuring compliance with water rules.
The Associated Press found wide disparities in enforcement, from Los Angeles issuing just two $200 fines in a service area of nearly 4 million people to Santa Cruz levying more than $1.6 million in water waste penalties.
Residents have been falling short of Brown's call to slash water consumption by 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency early last year. On average, monthly water use has fallen 11 percent since the state imposed water restrictions in July, according to surveys of water suppliers.