Californians fall a bit short of Brown’s call for 25% cut in water use after 9 months of conservation
After nine months of fervent conservation, drought-fatigued Californians narrowly missed meeting the water-savings target set by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago.
Urban dwellers reduced their consumption by 23.9% between June and February, state regulators said Monday, just short of the 25% cut required under Brown’s executive order.
Still, the conservation efforts saved nearly 1.19 million acre-feet of water, or enough to supply nearly 6 million Californians for a year.
Officials have said it is unlikely that the state as a whole would face any consequences for missing Brown’s standard by such a small margin, but individual water suppliers could face penalties.
“Twenty-four percent savings shows enormous effort and a recognition that everyone’s effort matters,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, in a statement. “Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways.”
California’s cumulative water savings dipped below 25% in recent months as the weather turned colder and people began using less water. In February, residents and businesses cut their usage by only 12% compared with the same month in 2013, officials said. By comparison, they saved 31.4% in July.
It was the lowest monthly reduction in terms of percentage since Brown’s mandate took effect in June.
In a news release, water officials blamed the lower savings partially on the weather, saying February was one of the warmest and driest Februaries since the drought began. They urged Californians to keep conserving.
Monday’s report provides a bookend to the historic executive order Brown issued from Phillips Station a year ago. In November, he issued another order that added flexibility to some of the conservation requirements while also extending the rules through October.
The state’s urban water providers were told to cut their water consumption by varying percentages last spring, and have had to meet those standards each month since June. Some suppliers were told to slash their use by as much as 36% versus 2013, others as little as 4%.
Under California’s latest regulations, some of the state’s more than 400 water districts were given credits and adjustments that dragged down their savings goals by a few percentage points.
Regulators have said that they would consider ways to further modify or even phase out the drought rules after staff members evaluate the state’s hydrology.
Last week’s snowpack survey showed that conditions had improved significantly since 2015, but the water content contained within the snow was still below average.
Snowpack is important because when it melts, it fills the state’s reservoirs, which subsequently send water to farmers and urban areas such as Los Angeles. Some of the state’s largest and most important reservoirs have gotten a boost from storms that soaked Northern California in March.
State water board staff members are expected to evaluate where California stands in the coming weeks. Additional adjustments to the drought regulations could follow soon after.
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