SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Despite record-setting rain and snowfall, state regulators say they may continue their drought restrictions.
The generous drenching to start 2017 could put California on track for the wettest year on record, but behind closed doors, the people in charge of the state's water say the drought and conservation rules are here to stay.
California has faced five years of drought, prompting emergency restrictions on water usage. After two wetter winters, some of the restrictions have been eased.
"We know some areas are still in dire straits and we know the skies could dry up," said State Water Resources Control Board chair Felicia Marcus.
The agency wants the restrictions to stay in place until at least the end of the rain season when official snowpack numbers will say how much water the region has for use and storage.
State officials listened to hours of testimony from water districts that made their case against tough restrictions.
"With the amount of water the state has right now, there's only a couple of pockets of California left in emergency drought situations, so we feels the state should be focusing on those areas and not the agencies demonstrated they can supply their customers with enough water," said Greg Bundesen with the Sacramento Suburban Water District.
The state water board allowed many districts to go from emergency to voluntary restrictions last year when they reported major savings. According to state statistics, California has saved enough water in 18 months to serve 30 percent of the state's population.
David Bolland, with the Association of California Water Agencies, says the numbers prove the drought restrictions should expire for good.
"The time for calling for crisis-type approach may be the bucket in the shower or letting the flowers die or letting the lawn be brown. Those times are not necessary," he said.
"The staff is just saying let's wait and see where we are at the end of the rainy season because we have seen the skies dry up and heat waves come in and melt the snow and the like," said Marcus.
Officials will vote on whether to relax restrictions next month. They'll then send a report to the governor who may decide to set new rules.
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