MAP: See Which Parts of California Are Ditching Drought Rules

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Don’t be too surprised if you see greener lawns in California these days.

The mandatory drought rules in effect throughout the state over the last year have largely gone out the window.

Until recently, state officials set conservation standards between 4 to 36 percent for the 411 water districts in the state. Now, water districts are setting their own rules and the vast majority are ditching mandatory cutbacks.

Click on the dots to see water districts' new mandatory conservation rules

More than 80 percent of the state’s water districts say they can handle a severe drought similar to the past three years. That’s the “stress test” the State Water Resources Control Board required them to do. The board is not vetting the stress test plans individually.


Sixty-six water districts said they’d experience a shortfall in another drought and have chosen to keep mandatory cutbacks. More than a third of districts are keeping voluntary cutbacks in place.

“It is appropriate to be able to relax because the situation changed,” says Felicia Marcus of the State Water Board.

Environmental groups are criticizing the state, saying the weaker rules send a mixed message to Californians after three years of conservation outreach.

If water conservation drops off, the water board says it’s prepared go back to mandatory cutbacks starting in January next year.

“We can’t take water for granted,” says Marcus. “And the next drought may be just around the corner or the one we’re in may get worse again.”