City of Merced to vote on new water saving proposal

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Mandatory water restrictions went into effect across the state Monday. Governor Brown's executive order requires statewide water savings to average 25 percent compared to last year. The new restrictions come as California prepares for a possible fifth year of drought.

Some local water agencies are being required to cut back anywhere from 8 to 36 percent which critics have called unrealistic and unfair. They say the steep cuts could cause higher water bills for customers and declining property values as homeowners' lawns turn brown.

Traditional sprinklers could become a thing of the past in Merced. That's because the city is considering an ordinance that would require all new construction homes and businesses to have drip or microspray irrigation systems.

City of Merced Water Conservation Specialist Leah Brown said, "Actually I've been approached by a couple different builders in town who are already redoing their plans and putting in drought tolerant landscape and drip. They're really jumping on board with the changes that have to occur because of the significance of the drought."

Employees at Horizon Distributers say they've also seen a huge spike in customers buying more efficient equipment even though it's often more expensive as well.

Alberto Magallanes with Horizon Distributors said, "You're not using as much, not much run off, not much wasted water, it's all pretty much being used."

The new ordinance would also require residents to only wash their cars during the two days a week when they're also allowed to water their lawns -- and avoid any watering within 48 hours of measurable rain. Hotels would be asked to post signs giving people the option of not having their towels and linens laundered every day. And restaurants would only give water to customers who request it.

"Every little bit helps definitely because how many times do you go to a restaurant and have that water and not drink it," said Leah Brown. "So if you're going to drink it wonderful, ask for it, and you'll have it served upon request."

Brown says these small steps are all part of the effort to make major cutbacks overall. The city also recently approved meters for nearly 11,000 homes that don't have them already. She said the city is also doing its part by no longer watering the grass in medians unless they're on a drip system, and most of the local parks are also turning brown unless they have playing fields.

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