Conservation Strong in June Under New “Stress Test” Approach

Californians continued their water-wise practices in June, reducing urban water use by 21.5% statewide under new state rules that emphasize drought preparedness and local discretion regarding conservation activities.

June data released by the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday showed that while statewide per-capita residential water use increased slightly over the same month in 2015, Californians are still in the conservation mode even though extraordinary measures are not required in many areas.

“This is healthy conservation in the absence of a mandate,” State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said, noting that some “bounce back” in water use was expected as conservation mandates eased in some areas.

State Water Board staff also provided an update on “stress test” data submitted by local water suppliers as required by the modified emergency regulation adopted by the board in May. So far, 379 of the 410 suppliers subject to the regulation have submitted the required data, and State Water Board staff continues to follow up with agencies that submitted incomplete or unclear data, according to Max Gomberg, climate change mitigation strategist for the board.

“It is taking longer than anticipated to go through all the documentation,” Gomberg said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We are doing a lot of followup with suppliers that we felt didn’t provide enough information.”

Gomberg noted that 31 water suppliers have opted to retain the conservation standard they were assigned by the State Water Board last year.

Under the modified regulation, water suppliers are required to conduct a rigorous stress test and certify they are drought-prepared in the event of another three dry years. Though many suppliers have certified they are in fact drought-prepared due to years of planning and local investments in drought-resilient supplies and water-use efficiency, they continue to promote conservation this year, said ACWA Special Projects Manager Dave Bolland.

Agencies may report a “zero” gap between supply and demand on their stress test results, but that “does not mean they are not doing any conservation,” Bolland told the State Water Board. “It means they have planned ahead, they have made supply investments.” He said many agencies are implementing robust conservation programs and offering rebates for lawn replacement, efficient appliances and fixtures, and more.

“Californians got the message. It has become a habit to use water efficiently” even without top-down mandates, he said.

ACWA has compiled several examples of how local water suppliers are continuing the call for conservation this year. The examples are available here.

More information on the conservation regulation is available on the State Water Board's website here.