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California's water shortage requires updates in technology, law - and mindset

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Californians responded to Gov. Gavin Newsom's request for voluntary water conservation earlier this year by using more, not less. On Monday, Newsom said mandatory cutbacks could be coming.

Already, residents face sharp new outdoor water restrictions June 1, and serious doubts over whether those limits will be enough to cope with a historic water shortage. It's a good time to imagine the ideal California of the future, in which information technology and rational pricing make water conservation simple, understandable and a common way of life.

Here's how it should work, as a resident pulls out his or her phone and at the touch of a button checks the household's water use for that day in real time:

"Let's see ― four family members, 240 gallons. Not bad. That's a couple gallons ahead of our pace for this time in the afternoon yesterday, and about on par for our average. We'll be coming in at about 80 gallons a person by the end of the day, which is OK, but we can do better. It's been overcast, so our soil and weather monitor has signaled our drip irrigation system to give a minute or so less of water to the flower bed. How are we doing compared with........

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