Gavin Newsom is seeking to lift a ban on drinking water from the Central Valley, and the water board is expected to approve that plan at a hearing Friday.
The rules are part of a broader package of water and sewer upgrades to California’s utilities that are expected to help meet the state’s water crisis, but some environmental groups are concerned that the rules will allow water to be diverted to cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco that have been hit hard by the drought.
The state Department of Water Resources estimates that the average amount of water used by residents in the Central Coast city of San Francisco alone is about one-quarter of what it used last year.
“I think the water use, especially in San Francisco, is unsustainable, and I think we have to start somewhere,” said Jeff Hirsch, a policy analyst for the Sierra Club.
The new rules are expected in the next few months.
The water board plans to vote on the measure at its meeting on Feb. 12.
Hirsch said he would oppose lifting the restrictions.
He said he thinks they are unnecessary, since there are other ways to provide drinking water.
“There are already restrictions in place that would allow us to provide water to the community, and those are the same restrictions that we already have for other purposes,” he said.
“We don’t have to go out and make up rules to do it.
We just have to follow the rules that are already in place.”
The state’s governor is scheduled to testify in the coming days about the state budget, and it is likely that Newsom will push for a package that includes a large increase in state funding for water systems, Hirsch said.
The governor has been advocating for a state water plan that includes the removal of the restrictions on water from cities and counties, but he also said he will continue to push for the water agency to review and increase funding for state water programs.