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Executive Summary for July 29th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary.

Published on July 29, 2015 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Poll: Californians Support Higher Water Bills to Solve Drought

A poll released today by the California Water Foundation found strong support for investment in new water infrastructure, even if it means steeper water bills.

In the telephone poll of 1,000 randomly selected California voters, 79 percent said they prefer investment in water infrastructure over cheap water bills. More than 60 percent said they would support a fee of $4 per month on their water bills to ease the drought and invest in water supply infrastructure.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled also said they support policies that impose higher levies on heavy water users to encourage conservation.

The poll also found a very high level of public concern about the drought, and revealed that these worries are growing. It also reveals that the public has similar disquiet over the drought’s effect on the environment and agriculture.

Lester Snow, the foundation’s executive director, said the results “suggest that California voters are ready and willing to support major and permanent changes in how California manages its water.”

Rebates for Fake Grass Divide Water Agencies

The East Bay Municipal Utility District, one of the largest water agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area, voted Tuesday not to offer customers rebates to install artificial turf.

The vote highlights disagreements among water agencies across California over the issue of subsidizing artificial turf. Many provide incentives to swap lawns for native plants, and the state of California will soon offer its own rebates using $25 million from Proposition 1. But subsidies for fake turf are far less likely. Most Bay Area agencies do not subsidize it, saying environmental concerns are not worth the water savings.

While artificial turf has become far more realistic in feel and appearance, it has its downsides. It may reduce percolation of rain into the soil, reduce habitat for insects and birds, and it can be as much as 60 degrees hotter than a natural lawn during summer. Studies have also shown that artificial turf may present an increased risk of skin infections and exposure to harmful chemicals.

It also presents a disposal problem: When a fake lawn wears out in 10-12 years, it typically goes to a landfill.

The East Bay district’s unanimous vote to reject a fake turf subsidy came after these concerns were cited by environmental groups and customers. The proposal would have allowed a rebate up to $1,250 per customer for switching to fake grass.

In Sacramento County, Watering Marijuana is “Waste”

In other domestic irrigation news, Sacramento County on Tuesday officially classified irrigating marijuana plants as a form of “water waste” subject to fines up to $500 per day.

The move was part of an ongoing effort by the county to rein in small marijuana farms in unincorporated areas. While the county follows state law by allowing licensed residents to grow nine marijuana plants for medicinal purposes, larger cultivation efforts are banned.

The move was met with protests by marijuana advocates, who said claims that pot plants consume as much as 10 gallons of water per day are exaggerated.

Photo courtesy by Associated Press / Damian Dovarganes

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