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Southern Californians have to cut back on watering their yards due to severe drought

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Use less water. That is a direct order to some people in the Los Angeles area starting this week. Reporter Erin Stone joins us now from KPCC to explain more. Welcome, Erin.

ERIN STONE, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hey. OK. So I live in Los Angeles. I just got the email myself this week. Tell us, what can I do and not do with water?

STONE: So every resident in the city of LA will be affected by this. And basically what it comes down to is you can water twice a week for 8 minutes at a time outside.

CHANG: Right. OK. So I'm setting my timer. But can you just tell me - 'cause I've only lived in LA for two years - how unusual are these water restrictions for California?

STONE: Yeah. These are some of the strictest rules we've ever had. Multiple water officials have told me that the severity of this drought has really taken them by surprise. And LA gets most of its water from Northern California, and the reservoirs up there are at some of their lowest levels in history.

CHANG: So what happens if someone violates these rules? What happens to them?

STONE: So water agencies are being really clear that fines are going to be a last resort. They really want to educate the public before, you know, fining anyone for not abiding by the rules. So you could - you know, after multiple warnings, education, you could receive fines of up to $600 if you violate the rules multiple times.

CHANG: And what kind of reaction are you hearing from other LA residents about these new rules?

STONE: You know, Angelinos are pretty used to this. It feels like we're always in a drought.

CHANG: I know.

STONE: There's a bit of drought fatigue, but I do hear from people that they're willing to sacrifice. They really want to do their part. The question is, how long and how much stricter can rules get?

CHANG: Right. And what's a sense of the long term here? Like, is this the new normal? Do we expect the rules to get more and more restrictive going forward?

STONE: Yeah. So long term, the climate crisis is expected to continue to make droughts drier and longer, and many of our traditional sources of water won't be as plentiful in the future. But Angelinos have internalized a lot of water-saving habits already - short showers, turning off the water when you brush your teeth - and many people have even invested in water-saving technology at their homes. That said, if enough water isn't saved, we could face a total ban of outdoor watering by fall.

CHANG: Wow. All right. That is KPCC's Erin Stone. You heard it from her. Thank you so much, Erin.

STONE: Thanks, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erin Stone