Drought-Stricken California Ramps Up Water Restrictions

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California residents have to turn off their sprinklers, and restaurants won't give customers water unless they ask under new drought regulations approved Tuesday. The State Water Resources Control Board has extended and expanded restrictions on water use as California enters its fourth year of drought, and winter ends without significant storms or snowfall to replenish dwindling reservoirs. The drought's effects are rippling across the state, hurting wildlife and forcing farmers to leave fields unplanted. So far this winter, wildfires are burning through nearly four times as many acres as usual.

The state firefighting agency reports that the dry conditions are forcing it to maintain its highest-ever level of seasonal firefighters straight through the winter. Amid this backdrop, environmental advocates are calling on the state water board to find even more aggressive ways to slash water use, such as rationing, enforcing plumbing upgrades and going after corporate landscapes. "The board could and should do more," said Kate Poole, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The state agency has conceded its actions so far have been focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. It voted Tuesday to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

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--- The Associated Press

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