What’s old is new again: Brown called for 25% water cuts in the 1970s


Gov. Jerry Brown’s order Wednesday for a 25% mandatory cut in water use, a response to the state’s devastating drought, comes almost four decades after the governor faced a similar water crisis that pitted water-rich Northern California against its thirsty southern neighbors.

In 1977, during his first term as governor, Brown called for a similar voluntary 25% reduction in water use amid a two-year drought. But he met resistance from Southern California water districts. At the time, Brown blasted Los Angeles residents, specifically, for wasting water.

“They have to cut back,” Brown said at a Los Angeles City Hall news conference with then-Mayor Tom Bradley, according to a Los Angeles Times report. “And they will cut back.”


Brown warned of mounting pressure from Northern Californians to take drastic action.

While some local agencies adopted water restrictions at the time, Brown did not issue severe mandatory restrictions like the ones announced Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Brown ordered the California Water Resources Control Board to implement regulations that would reduce water usage by 25%, the first involuntary statewide water restrictions in California history.

Brown’s executive order contains a host of water-saving directives, including replacing 50 million square feet of lawns statewide with drought-tolerant landscaping as part of a partnership with local governments. Golf courses, cemeteries and other institutions with large landscaped areas also were ordered to reduce water consumption.