Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Urban water conservation nearly nill in February

While some big-city (and local) news organizations keep throwing a hissy fit over the fact that farms weren't mentioned much in Gov. Jerry Brown's water-related executive order last week, it turns out that urban areas hardly conserved water at all in February.

From the State Water Resources Control Board:
With April snow measured at its lowest level on record, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced that Californians in cities and towns reduced their water consumption by just 2.8 percent in February. This dismal conservation rate is the lowest monthly figure since the State Water Board began tracking the data in July 2014. Today’s announcement comes just days after the State Water Board delivered a second notice to water rights holders – including those with senior water rights – of coming curtailments of their surface water supplies.

“Today’s announced February results are very disturbing and provides even more support for the Governor’s call for an immediate 25 percent mandatory reduction in urban water use statewide,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “I know many communities in the state stepped up since last summer and dramatically conserved water. But not enough communities in the state have saved enough water. Beginning today, to assure their own water security as well as help others, communities should restrict outdoor irrigation to the bare minimum. If we dramatically stop watering out-of-doors, we should be able to reduce water use by 25 percent or more in the next several months since an average of 50 percent of urban water use is used outdoors.”

In the most recent survey of more than 400 urban water retailers, the amount of water saved by the state’s large urban water agency customers statewide declined from 8 percent in January to approximately 2.8 percent in February, in same month water use comparisons of 2015 to 2013. The year 2013 serves as a baseline to determine water savings statewide since the 2014 emergency water conservation regulations have been in effect.

On April 1, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order mandating a 25 percent reduction in water use for all urban water users.

The State Water Board expects to consider on May 5 an emergency water conservation regulation that requires a mandatory 25 percent reduction in urban water use statewide beginning the month following Board adoption. That regulation will use a sliding scale, so that communities that have been conserving water will have lower mandates than those that haven’t conserved this past year and/or over the last decade since the last major drought. [...]

“In this extremely serious situation, the Governor is calling for immediate reductions. Californians need to step up now -- especially those who have not been doing their share,” said Marcus. “We are in a drought like we've not seen before, and we all need to step up like never before.”

Water Conservation Efforts Decline

Monthly residential water savings statewide were just 2.8 percent in February compared with February 2013. That is down from the 8 percent water savings in January compared with January 2013. Broken down by hydrologic region, the results show that some parts of the state saved much less water than in any month since reporting began last summer. In some areas water use increased, rather than declined. A few hydrologic regions sustained significant water conservation in February.

From June 2014 through February 2015, more than 148 billion gallons of water have been saved compared with the same period in 2013 – enough to supply 1.99 million California residents for a year.

The decline in water savings by one of the most populated regions of the state did impact the statewide average for February. The South Coast hydrologic region actually increased its water use in February as compared to the February 2013 baseline. This increase had a considerable impact on the statewide average because 56 percent of all residential water customers in the state are in the South Coast hydrologic region. [...]

In addition to the conservation data, the State Water Board also discussed the reported residential gallons per-capita per day (R-GPCD) for February. The discussion focused on estimated daily water use by residential customers for more than 400 urban water agencies statewide.

The statewide R-GPCD average for February was 76.7 gallons per person per day, a slight increase from January when the statewide average use was 73.1 gallons per person per day. At the low end, the San Francisco Bay hydrologic region averaged 57.9 gallons per person per day. On the high end, the Colorado River hydrologic region averaged 165.6 gallons per person per day. A handful of suppliers have reached R-GPCD levels below 45. State Water Board staff continues to study this trend in an effort to understand what is driving the reduction in water use in some hydrologic regions but not others.

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