The State Water Resources Control Board today announced that urban Californians’ monthly water conservation declined to 17.7 percent in August, down from 27 percent savings in August 2015, raising concerns that some water suppliers are abandoning their focus on conservation as California heads into a possible sixth drought year.
Californians continue to conserve water in significant amounts even in the absence of state-mandated conservation targets. The cumulative average savings from June 2015 through August was 23.3 percent, compared with the same months in 2013. Since June 2015, two million acre-feet of water has been saved — enough water to supply 10 million people, more than one-quarter the state’s 38 million population, for a year.
However, water conservation has dropped steeply among some local water suppliers. These declines highlight the need for continued education and dialogue with customers on the importance of conserving and using water as efficiently as possible. As the State Water Board continues to monitor conservation levels, a return to state-mandated conservation may be necessary beginning next year.
“The statewide August conservation results raise questions, and we are examining the data to understand why some areas slipped more than others,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Are we seeing relaxation of conservation messaging and programs, or are we seeing abandonment of programs? One may be appropriate, the other is not. It’s a mixed picture. Many communities who certified that they didn’t ‘need’ to conserve are still conserving up a storm, while others have slipped more than seems prudent.”
Marcus added: “While last year’s rain and snow brought a respite for urban California, we are still in drought, and we can’t know what this winter will bring. What we do know is that climate change will continue to make our water years even more unpredictable, so we need to retain our conservation habits for the long term, rain or shine, drought or no drought.”
Statewide water savings for August was 17.7 percent (124,094 acre‑feet or 40.4 billion gallons), a decrease from July’s 20 percent savings, and also a decrease from August 2015’s 27 percent statewide savings (63.5 billion gallons). August 2016 water savings are 36 percent lower than August 2015.
Cumulative statewide percent reduction for June 2015 – August (fifteen months) is 23.3 percent, which equates to 2,024,599 acre-feet (659.7 billion gallons).
Statewide average R-GPCD for August was 114.1 gallons; slightly up from 113.5 R-GPCD in July and also above 102.2 R-GPCD reported for August 2015. All August data can be found on this page.
Conservation levels have remained significant for many communities that had certified that they did not need top down mandates to keep conserving.
Under the board’s revised emergency water conservation regulations, urban water agencies have the ability to set their own conservation standards based on a “stress test” of supply reliability. Water suppliers had to document that they have sufficient supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought or take additional measures that include state-imposed mandatory conservation targets. The regulation is in effect through January 2017. Those stress test results are here.
Of more than 400 local water agencies in California, 343 suppliers passed their stress test. Of those, 114 suppliers – or about a third – saved more than 20 percent in August, compared with the same month in 2013. These suppliers serve more than seven million people and include Sacramento, Alameda County Water District, San Gabriel Valley Water Company, San Gabriel Valley Fontana Water Company, Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 40 (Antelope Valley), California-American Water Company Sacramento District, Contra Costa Water District, San Bernardino, Oceanside, Hayward, and Pomona.
While some local water suppliers may have relaxed water use restrictions from those that were in place last summer, most agencies have kept up locally mandated restrictions and targets, which is appropriate and which the state strongly encourages. Regardless of a supplier’s individual conservation requirement, the statewide prohibitions on specific wasteful practices such as fountains without recirculating pumps, or irrigation of turf in street medians, remain in place.