Numbers released by the California Water Resources Control Board tell a varied story on conservation efforts.
On one hand California’s urban residents were on track to meet Gov. Edmund Brown Jr’s. mandate to cut water usage by 25 percent over the last half of 2015, but not after falling short of monthly goals in November.
The state’s large urban water suppliers reported reductions in water use for October and November at 22.3 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively, when compared to the same months in 2014. Still, the cumulative average by the end of November was a savings of just over 26 percent.
In contrast, average statewide water use declined from 87 gallons per person per day in October to 75 in November – the lowest observed since the Water Board’s emergency regulation went into effect.
California is still under a 25 percent water reduction mandate, meaning urban water users and suppliers must cut their usage of water by that amount on a continual basis. The mandate issued on April 1 did not include agricultural water users because their supplies of water had previously been curtailed by the State Water Board.
The reduction in conservation in October and November did not surprise state officials.
“We expected the percentage drop in the cooler fall and winter months when we use less water in general so we are still on track,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.
In November Gov. Brown issued an executive order directing the State Water Board to extend and revise the emergency water conservation regulations based on conditions through January.
Small water suppliers (those with 3,000 or fewer customers) were required to report water use by Dec. 15, and to date about half of these small water suppliers have submitted reports. Of those reporting, 1,232 small water suppliers (80 percent) are in compliance with the emergency regulation; 209 suppliers (13 percent) are not in compliance; and compliance for 109 suppliers (7 percent) could not be assessed. The full report of information submitted by small water suppliers is available here.
Out for public review is a staff-proposed framework for the next iteration of the drought emergency water conservation regulation, which is intended to replace the current regulations set to expire the middle of next month.
Following public review of the framework, staff will release a draft updated emergency regulation for public comment in mid-January. State Water Board consideration of an extended emergency regulation is anticipated Feb. 2.
Despite recent rain and snow, most of California is still experiencing severe drought. Residential water users are urged to keep up their efforts to conserve through the winter months. That includes complying with urban water supplier directives to switch to watering schedules of once a week as well as a prohibition against watering during a rain event and 48 hours directly following a rain event.
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