Parched California Considers Going After Water Wasters With $500 Fines

California is making an unprecedented move to end its three-year drought. 

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California is making an unprecedented move to end its three-year drought.

The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to approve a tough emergency measure Tuesday to institute mandatory statewide restrictions on water use for the first time in California history.

"There is a need for people to take more dramatic action," Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board, told the Wall Street Journal. "We are saying: 'For heaven's sake, don't waste water.'"

The action includes banning certain practices such as allowing sprinkler water to run into streets and washing cars without hoses with a shut-off nozzle, and penalizing violators with fines of up to $500. The board projects the proposed restrictions could save enough water for more than 3.5 million people for a year.

Reservoirs throughout the state have drained amid the severe drought, including Lake Oroville, which now stands at 39 percent capacity. The drought has also contributed to higher food prices and more wildfires, and despite Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) urging residents to conserve water with an aim to cut water consumption by 20 percent, a May survey of water agencies showed the efforts only achieved 5 percent in savings statewide.

If the measure is approved, the water restrictions will go into effect on or about August 1.

Incidentally, a plan to split California into six states – one spurred on by issues including water rights, according to its proposal mastermind Tim Draper, a venture capitalist – is taking a baby step closer to reaching the November 2016 election. The plan's supporters have compiled 1.3 million signatures to submit to election officials Tuesday. If officials deem at least 807,615 of the signatures valid, the plan will head to the election.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.