Urban Water Conservation Drops From 22 Percent to Near 9 Percent in January

With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January and directed water municipalities to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. The state of emergency was encated to make sure California is able to cope with an unprecedented drought.

As California enters a fourth year of drought, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced a steep decline in water conservation during the month of January, considered the driest January since meteorological records have been kept.

In the most recent statewide survey of nearly 400 urban water retailers, the amount of water conserved by the state’s large water agency customers declined from 22 percent in December 2014 to 8.8 percent in January in year-over-year water use comparisons. January followed a very wet December 2014, which reduced the need for outdoor water use and likely contributed to the high conservation rate in December.

Today’s announcement was not a surprising considering how dry January was. Residents had to use their outdoor irrigation in January at a high rate because the month was a dry one.  This fact alone appears to account for the decline in water conservation. At a time when communities are running out of water, fields continue to remain fallowed for a second year, and fish and wildlife are suffering, the chance that this year will be worse than last year is very real. Urban water users must cut back more – to extend their own supplies and to allow for flexibility in the system. Whether in self-interest or community spirit, conservation is by far the smartest and most cost effective way to deal with this difficult drought.

On March 17, the State Water Board will discuss renewing an emergency regulation supporting water conservation  originally adopted in July 2014, which restricts outdoor water use and authorizes penalties for water waste. Water board members today directed staff to offer additional measures intended to increase conservation statewide.

“We are in an extremely serious situation. We can and must do better conserving our water during 2015 because there’s just no guarantee this horrendous drought will end anytime soon,”  The State Water Board said. This board is prepared to make some tough decisions in the coming months, including adopting permanent, rather than emergency water conservation measures, going forward.

Year-over-year monthly residential water savings declined statewide to 8.8 percent in January, down more than 60 percent from December 2014. Broken down by hydrologic region, the results show that some parts of the state saved much less water in January than in any month since reporting requirements began.

On a positive note, from June to January 2014, more than 146 billion gallons of water was saved compared with the same period in 2013.  This conservation is enough to supply water to 1.96 million California residents for a year.