Beach showers shut off as California struggles with drought

Beach showers shut off as California struggles with drought
PHOTO: Reuters

SACRAMENTO - Starting next week, California parks will no longer offer showers for people to wash sand and salt from their bodies at the beach, part of a broader plan to conserve water as the state's years-long drought drags on.

The most populous US state is in the fourth year of a catastrophic drought that has cost billions to its agricultural sector and prompted its first-ever mandatory cutbacks in urban water use. "California is facing extremely severe drought conditions,"State Parks Director Lisa Mangat said in a news release. "It is important for all Californians to conserve water at home, at work and even when recreating outdoors." Shutting down the rinsing stations marks the state's latest move in ongoing efforts to reduce water consumption.

California Governor Jerry Brown, who declared the drought an emergency in 2014, ordered residents and businesses in April to cut water use by 25 per cent.

The drought is lingering despite winter storms because warm temperatures have meant that little of that rain was stored as snow. The state relies on its mountain snowpack to melt in spring and replenish streams and reservoirs.

Visitors to the state's beaches use about 1.2 gallons (4.5 liters) of water per day at outdoor rinse stations, for a total of about 18 million gallons (68 million liters) of water annually, the news release said.

To remove salt and sand without the outdoor rinsing stations, the state is suggesting that beachgoers bring a towel or brush to wipe themselves down. The state also suggests bringing water from home.

Other state departments have also implemented cutbacks in water usage, turning off fountains and letting lawns go dry in public buildings.

In April, administrators at the state's massive prison system said outdoor showers in prison yards would be eliminated to help conserve water. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which runs the prisons, also said it would limit inmates' thrice-weekly showers to five minutes. Inmates who work in prison kitchens and medical clinics are allowed to shower more frequently, said spokeswoman Dana Simas.

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