LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California Gov. Jerry Brown has announced statewide mandatory water reductions for the first time ever as the state saw the lowest snowpack levels ever recorded.

Meeting with reporters in Sacramento, Brown announced Wednesday he has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory cuts in cities and towns across the state to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

Water officials measure the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas every year in the same spot, usually finding an average of about 66.5 inches of snow.

But this year, there was only dry grass on the ground as Brown met with reporters.

This photo from March 2013 shows Keith Swanson (DWR Chief of Division of Flood Management) and Frank Gehrke (DWR Chief of Snow Surveys) conduct the annual snow survey at Phillips Station. This year, the location had no visible snow covering the ground. (Photo courtesy Gov. Jerry Brown's Office)

This photo from March 2013 shows Calif. Department of Water Resources officials Keith Swanson and Frank Gehrke conduct the annual snow survey at Phillips Station. This year, the location had no visible snow covering the ground. (Photo courtesy Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office)

The move is aimed at saving approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water – nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville – through the rest of the year, Brown said.

“Today we are standing on dry grass and we should be standing in five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Brown. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”

California may only have about one year of water remaining in the state’s reservoirs, according to Brown.

Brown’s plan requires all 400 of California’s local water agencies to come up with plans to monitor and cut water usage, under penalty of possible fines.

David Nahai, former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that Gov. Brown’s executive order is unprecedented.

“It’s very sweeping,” said Nahai. “There are 31 different measures that are contained in this executive order, and each one can be viewed as historic.”

Governor brown says that if some cities don’t reduce their water usage by about 25%, they could face a penalty of up to $10,000 per day in fines.

Still, some experts say the governor’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

“There are, of course, much bigger uses of water in the state, like agriculture, like fracking, where a lot of water is going,” USC Earth Sciences Professor Sarah Feakins said. “And so it’s not really addressing those big issues.”

In addition to reductions, Executive Order B-29-15 (PDF) also calls for Los Angeles and other local governments to replace up to 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping, as well as requiring campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make “significant cuts” in water use.

“I drive around, and I see everybody with these really green lawns, and I don’t understand how they can have that,” Van Nuys resident Susan Goodrich said.

The use of potable water for irrigation at new homes and developments was also banned under the new order.

Local water agencies were also ordered to implement “conservation pricing,” aimed at penalizing customers who overuse water.

A local landscaping company called Turf Terminators is utilizing the city’s new lawn-removal rebate program, and is helping to make yards more drought resistant. The company estimates that for every squared foot of removed lawn, you save some 40 gallons of water per year.

“For every customer that we actually perform services for, we see this sort of social phenomenon where two to three more come by and ask questions,” Turf Terminators’ Andrew Farrell said.

The company also estimates customers will save about $2,000 every year on their water bill.

An impending decision by the Metropolitan Water District, which sells its water to LA’s Department of Water and Power may majorly impact how much residents will have to cut back on water usage, as well as how much they will be fined if they fail to do so.

“On the thirteenth of April, the Metropolitan Water District is going to do what it’s threatened to do in the past, which is pass mandatory allocations, potential cutbacks to all their agencies,” Environmental Water Caucus’ Conner Everts said. “They’ll sit up and listen to that.”

Some organizations in the state, meanwhile, continue to push that the measures seem to focus more on metropolitan or suburban residents, and not on large companies in the Central Valley.

“If we really want to talk about conserving water, we have to address the biggest water-users and polluters in our state, which is big corporate agro-business and big oil, mainly in the Central Valley,” Food and Water Watch’s Alexandra Nagy said. “Instead of continuing to push urban users to cut down, we’d like to see ground water be put in the public trust.”

For more tips from the Environmental Protection Agency on water conservation, click here.

For ‘Water Use It Wisely’, featuring 200 tips of how to conserve water, visit here.

For specific water use around the home, and how you can get by with restrictions, visit the water conservation website here.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (5)