Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking California residents to voluntarily conserve water by 15% to help the state be better prepared for future droughts.

At a July 8 news conference at Lopez Lake near San Luis Obispo, Newsom said people should do their part by making sure dishwasher loads are full and household water leaks are sealed.

The conserved water will contribute to underground water basins, many of which are already at very low levels. Some reservoirs, such as Lake Oroville, are as low as at 30% capacity. Lake Oroville is a part of the State Water Project (SWP), which supplies most of the potable water in the Tri-Valley.

With climate change, much of the precipitation in the mountains fell in the form of rain, and even the snow that did appear quickly seeped into the ground, instead of forming a slow-melting snow pack, which used to be the norm.

Karla Nemeth, who once represented Zone 7 at state water meetings, went on to become director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). Nemeth commented in an AP story about Newsom’s announcement.

“What we didn’t understand was we had this deepening and intensifying drought underground,” said Nemeth during the AP interview. “It really is the speed at which the compounding effects of climate change in soil moisture and ambient temperatures have made this drought a very different kind of drought. It’s no longer a slow-moving train wreck.”

As timely as Newsom’s call for conservation is now, Zone 7 was warning Tri-Valley residents as early as March that there should be 15% voluntary conservation, in the form of taking efficient showers and dishwashing. The directors backed up their concerns by putting more money into the agency’s programs that reward people to change their water-wasting lifestyles. For example, the agency’s water-efficient lawn conversion program for single family homes, commercial and multi-family buildings will rise from $750 to $2,000. The increase will continue to cover up to 50% of the conversion cost. The maximum rebate for commercial or multi-family property will increase from $4,500 to $6,000, also taking care of up to 50% of the costs. The result must meet certain standards, e.g. amount of lawn area seen from the street and types of plants that are certified as drought resistant.

For more information, see the Zone 7 page at