Tens of millions of California residents must drastically cut back on their water use, according to new emergency drought regulations. The most drastic measures so far will force a statewide reduction in usage by 25% from 2013 amounts, with some inland regions forced to cut consumption by up to 36% over the next nine months, the Sacramento Bee reports. The State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved the regulations, based on residential per capita use last summer, after about eight hours of testimony and discussion yesterday. Chair Felicia Marcus said the move was about "preparing for a drought that can go beyond what we have seen in this century," though some argued the regulations were unattainable, unfair, and unwelcome.
A Sacramento Regional Water Authority rep said the plan shows "significant inequity" when it comes to Sacramento, which faces some of the toughest measures. Others noted the regulations could slash state jobs, crush industrial businesses, kill vegetation, and spawn wildfires, the Los Angeles Times reports. But the board argued voluntary cuts haven't been helping, and residents and businesses used just 3.6% less water in March than in the same month in 2013. "We are in extraordinary times," the board's vice chair said. "We are beyond the worst-case scenario." More bad news: Californians are expected to pay higher water rates as water agencies are set to lose $500 million amid conservation efforts; the goal is to save 400 billion gallons of water. Districts that don't meet targets will receive warnings, followed by fines for repeated violations.