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Central Coast counties are in a severe drought, but water conservation not mandatory everywhere

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Posted at 7:33 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 00:34:14-04

41 California counties are now in a drought emergency, but Governor Gavin Newsom has yet to announce any mandatory drought conservation measures.

Some cities kept water conservation methods in place from the last drought in 2012-2016, but there are some, including on the Central Coast, with no restrictions in place even as drought conditions worsen.

The City of Arroyo Grande kept mandatory water restrictions from the last drought in place.

Currently, residents there are not allowed to:

  • Water outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use water to clean driveways, patios and sidewalks
  • Refill pools and spas, among other things

“I remember all the warnings and guidelines to conserve water and be really careful with water,” Arroyo Grande resident Conny Leigl said. “One thing I did was convert my yard into a succulent yard so that I didn't have to water the flowers that were here."

However, other cities like San Luis Obispo don't have any water restrictions in place.

Instead, they are asking people to continue voluntary cutbacks.

“The City of San Luis Obispo is in a secure position right now with the water we have available in our surface water reservoirs, our use of our recycled water for about 5% of the city's total water use and we also have groundwater,” City of San Luis Obispo Utility Deputy Director Mychal Boerman said.

Boerman said mandatory restrictions are triggered when five or fewer years of water are available to the community.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are in a severe drought.

Lopez Lake is a water source that is being watched closely. It's about 8% away from triggering mandatory conservation, which experts say could happen in late summer or early fall.

It's worse in surrounding counties experiencing extreme drought conditions.

However, unlike Gov. Jerry Brown, during the 2012-2016 drought, Gov. Newsom has yet to declare a state of emergency.

“On the Central Coast, we are actually looking a lot better than many areas in the state. This is giving us the ability to look at our local conditions and cater our request to the community based on those and not based on what's happening 500 miles to the north or south of us."

Newsom announced Monday $5.1 billion will be put towards water infrastructure, drought preparedness and response and water resilience.

Each city or district will have its own measures in place so it's best to check which jurisdiction you live in.

Many cities have free plumbing retrofit and rebate programs.

The City of San Luis Obispo also has free water-efficient fixtures such as faucet aerators, shower heads and hose nozzles, which can be picked up at 879 Morro Street.

Residents in Solvang and Santa Margarita are under water alerts and have been asked to voluntarily conserve water due to concerning water levels.