What will it take to get people to use a lot less water in drought-stricken California, with its technicolour landscape of perfect lawns, verdant golf courses and aquamarine swimming pools? The state is about to find out as it imposes the first mandatory water-use restrictions in its history.

The regulations mean industrial parks and golf courses must immediately cut a quarter of their water use on ornamental turf, and homeowners will be pressed to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping.

Reuters photojournalist Lucy Nicholson flew over southern California to see the effects of the historic drought.

california drought from above
Homes with swimming pools in the Palm Springs area of California are seen from the air. The average daily water usage per person in Palm Springs is 201 gallons, more than double the state averageLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
Homes with boathouses built around an artificial lake are seen in Indio, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
A canal runs through a golf course in La Quinta in the Palm Springs areaLucy Nicholson/Reuters

The crackdown comes as California moves toward its fourth summer of drought with no relief in sight. Record low snowfall over the winter has left the state of nearly 40 million people with a year's worth of water in its reservoirs, and dwindling groundwater for wells.

Affluent Southern California communities with lots of landscaping on automatic timers were some of the worst offenders, topping 300 gallons (1,140 litres) of water per person a day compared with 70 gallons (265 litres) for some San Francisco Bay Area communities.

california drought from above
Swimming pools are seen behind homes in Palm Springs, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
The Wet 'n' Wild water park is seen in Palm Springs, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
A water storage facility is seen near homes in La Quinta, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
"When in drought, turf out." A sign advertising artificial turf is seen in Cathedral City, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
A golf course is seen in La Quinta, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters

State water officials will now draw up the emergency regulations to carry out the governor's order and hope to have them ready for enactment in May, said George Kostyrko, spokesman for the state Water Resources Control Board.

Homeowners will get rebates for replacing lawns with greenery more suited to the semi-arid state and for installing more water-thrifty appliances and plumbing fixtures. The state also will press water agencies to impose higher, graduated rates to discourage water guzzling.

Homeowners and water districts that violate the rules will be subject to fines, but many of the enforcement details have yet to be worked out.

california drought from above
Green lawns surround an artificial lake in Indio, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
A home with a swimming pool is seen in La Quinta, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought
Homes with swimming pools and boathouses built around an artificial lake are seen in Indio, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought
A tractor collects golf balls on a driving range in the Palm Springs area, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought from above
Solar panels are seen in the Palm Springs area, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters
california drought
A cemetery is seen in Palm Springs, CaliforniaLucy Nicholson/Reuters