By Brian Park and Steve Sohanaki

As California continues to suffer from record drought conditions, San Juan Capistrano residents and businesses will now face stiffer regulations to curb outdoor water usage.

The City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance Tuesday that imposes the restrictions and moved the city into Stage 2 of its water shortage contingency plan. Whereas Stage 1 requirements were voluntary, the new rules are mandatory.

Residents will no longer be allowed to water their lawns or landscaping between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., unless they use special irrigation systems or water by hand, using either a bucket or hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle. Washing off sidewalks or structures is also prohibited, and residents are no longer allowed to wash their cars unless hoses are fitted with shut-off nozzles. Ornamental water features, such as fountains, are prohibited, unless the water is circulated.

Car washes are no longer allowed to use water for purposes other than cleaning vehicles and restaurants are being asked not to serve water unless customers specifically make a request.

The city will still allow water to be delivered to construction sites, citing the importance of projects like the ongoing Interstate 5/Ortega Highway interchange project.

The new regulations are in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s adoption of emergency regulations for urban water conservation, following Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to strengthen the state’s water management during the drought.

The city will be contacting its largest water customers, based on its tiered rate system, and will conduct meetings with homeowner’s associations and the public to inform them of the new regulations and water-saving programs.

At the state level, lawmakers in Sacramento passed a new $7.5 billion water plan to build up the state’s water infrastructure on Wednesday, Aug. 13.

The plan includes the construction of additional reservoirs, supporting new water-saving technologies and cleaning contaminated groundwater.

The legislation will replace a previous bill that was considered too expensive and political.

The bill passed with only one dissenting vote in the State Assembly—(R-Twin Peaks) Tim Donnelly—77-1. In the Senate, the bill was approved 37-0.

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) said she is satisfied with the new bill. In 2009, she opposed the original $11 billion plan because of “the excessive pork-barrel spending” it contained.

The previous plan directed $3 billion to storage projects. The new plan cut it to $2.7 billion and proposed building reservoirs in the agricultural valley in Colusa County north of Sacramento and another one in the Sierra Nevada, northeast of Fresno.

In addition to the $7.1 billion that will be newly borrowed, $425 million from older bonds will be redirected to the water priorities stated in the new plan. The redirection of that money will require voter approval.

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