Urban Californians Continue to Conserve Water Robustly

Urban Californians continued to conserve water at a healthy clip in October, cutting their monthly water usage by 19.5% and bringing the state’s cumulative water savings to 22.8% since June 2015, according to data released by the State Water Resources Control Board today.

State officials cautioned, however, that despite early rains in Northern California this fall, conservation must continue, since 73% of the state remains in drought conditions.

“Californians’ continued commitment to conservation shows they don’t take water for granted anymore,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “With climate change playing an increasingly disruptive role, we need to save where we can, when we can. Coupled with recycling, stormwater recapture and other measures, it will extend our local water resilience.” 

October’s number is a bit below the 22.3% savings in October 2015, but is up from the 18.3% savings in September of this year. Since June 2015, 2.26 million acre-feet of water has been saved — enough water to supply more than 11 million people, or more than one-quarter the state’s 38 million population, for a year.  

According to a press release issued today by the State Water Board, the board states it will continue to monitor conservation levels and water supply conditions, and will consider a staff proposal to extend emergency conservation regulations in January. The proposal may include a return to state-mandated conservation targets if dry conditions return or if conservation levels slip significantly.  

The statewide average water use was 89.5 residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD) for October, well below the 106.4 R-GPCD in September 2016 and slightly above the 87.2 R-GPCD reported for October 2015.

See the October fact sheet hereAll October data can be found on the conservation reporting page.

Conservation levels have remained significant for many communities that had certified that they did not need state-imposed mandates to keep conserving. 

Under the board’s revised emergency water conservation regulations, urban water agencies have the ability to identify 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 standards. The regulation is in effect through January 2017.  Those stress test results are here.

In October, about half of suppliers achieved water savings above 20%. These 196 suppliers serve more than 14 million people, and include East Bay Municipal Utilities District, San Jose Water Company, Sacramento, Alameda County Water District, Modesto, California-American Water Company Sacramento District, Contra Costa Water District, Huntington Beach, Marin Municipal Water District, Sacramento County Water Agency, Stockton, Sacramento Suburban Water District, Santa Rosa, and California Water Service Company Stockton.

Additionally, many water suppliers showed October 2016 conservation levels that were even higher than October 2015 levels, including Sunnyvale, Victorville Water District, Daly City, Redding, Vacaville, Casitas Municipal Water District, Hillsborough, Estero Municipal Improvement District, Morgan Hill, Wasco, and Fruitridge Vista Water Company. 

Marcus also praised suppliers who have improved their conservation.

“It’s good to see improvement in conservation in areas that had slipped, particularly in northern California, whether that was because of rain or other reasons, even though they have better supplies than in previous years,” Marcus added

According to the State Water Board, percentage savings alone do not tell a complete story of conservation achievement. Suppliers with already low R-GPCD use are taking more significant efforts to save water with small percentage reductions than big users of water for whom it easier to save water, particularly on outdoor ornamental landscapes.  Despite less than 10% water savings in October 2016, examples of communities with low R-GPCD and already significant conservation and efficiency achievements include San Diego, Golden State Water Company (Florence Graham), Seal Beach, and Hi-Desert Water District.

The current conservation regulation, adopted in May, is part of a wider effort to build on short-term, emergency water restrictions to establish permanent conservation measures that improve long-term drought preparedness and eliminate the worst water-wasting practices. These actions will help achieve a top priority of the state’s Water Action Plan - to “Make Conservation a California Way of Life.”

In May, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an executive order calling for new permanent water use efficiency targets for each urban water supplier that reflect California’s diverse climate, landscape, and demographic conditions. The local “stress test” data and three-year resiliency plans collected by the State Water Board will serve as a bridge to these actions and inform the development of new water use efficiency targets.

On Nov.30, the State Water Board along with four other state agencies released a draft framework for implementing the executive order. The new plan’s fundamental premise is that efficient water use helps all of California better prepare for longer and more severe droughts caused by climate change.

The framework develops long-term water conservation measures that will ensure all communities have sufficient water supplies. This will involve activities such as permanently banning wasteful practices like hosing off sidewalks and driveways and ensuring farmers plan and prepare for severe drought.