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Facing resistance, Gov. Jerry Brown defends order to cut water use

With criticism of new conservation regulations pouring in from local officials, Gov. Jerry Brown and other state leaders defended Thursday his executive order requiring a 25% reduction in water use.  

"From everything I can see here, it's attainable," Brown said. "Maybe we can do more. Maybe we have to do it differently. We don't do it all in one day."

Brown made his comments in the Capitol after a meeting with business leaders to discuss the ongoing drought that spurred his unprecedented order for mandatory water restrictions across the state.

Tim Quinn, executive director of the Assn. of California Water Agencies, said there will be "a complainer here or there" when it comes to the new rules.

But, he said, "We're going to accomplish that goal. Not without complaint, but we're going to accomplish that goal because it needs to be accomplished."

The State Water Resources Control Board has received more than 200 letters in response to a preliminary draft of Brown's drought regulations. Under the draft, communities would face cuts of 10% to 35%, depending on how much water they currently use. 

Some of the communities that face the toughest cuts use 300 gallons per resident, per day, said Thomas Howard, the water board's executive director. Getting that down to about 200 gallons "is attainable," he said.

Howard said there may be some changes made to the draft regulations before an updated version is released as early as Friday. The board is expected to vote on the rules next month.

He also said the board is preparing to issue curtailment orders to people with water rights, meaning there would be new restrictions on how much water farmers could take from the state's rivers and streams.

The orders could be issued as soon as next week and could affect even those with rights more than a century old, Howard said.

"The water is just not going to be there this year," he said.

"We're at the stage now where I told my staff to start putting together the curtailment orders and getting them out the door," Howard said.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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