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California falls short of water savings goal

POSTED April 5, 2016 8:33 p.m.

A statewide goal of reaching the 25 percent water conservation mandate fell just a smidge short as a dry February prompted more water usage in California, according to the latest release from the State Water Resource Control Board.

In April of last year Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order that mandated a 25 percent water use reduction by users of urban water supplies across California. Statewide cumulative savings from June 2015 to February 2016 totaled 23.9 percent compared with the same months in 2013.

“Twenty-four percent savings shows enormous effort and a recognition that everyone’s effort matters,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways.”

With nearly 1.19 million acre-feet of water conserved from June 2015 through February 2016, the state achieved 96 percent of the savings goal of 1.24 million acre-feet of water.

Statewide, the conservation rate dropped from 17.1 percent in January to 12 percent in February, likely because February 2016 was one of the warmest and driest Februaries since the drought began. In addition, residents generally use much less water for outdoor irrigation in the winter months, so there is less opportunity for high volume, and percentage, savings.

February 2016 compliance indicates that 55 percent of suppliers met their conservation standards.

“March brought us much needed rain and snow after a frightening February,” Marcus said. “It was more of a moderate March than the miracle March we hoped for, but we’re grateful for every raindrop and every snowflake, and we are still hoping for more April showers. We are in better shape than last year, but are still below average in most of California. We need to keep up our efforts to conserve the water we’ve gotten. We can better tune up and adjust our emergency rules once we see our final rain and snowpack tallies in the next few weeks.”

An updated and extended emergency regulation was adopted by the Board on Feb. 2 and took effect Feb. 11. The regulation extends restrictions on urban water use through October while providing urban water suppliers some latitude in the conservation requirements they must meet.

The State Water Board will hold a public workshop on April 20 to receive input on conservation needs through the summer. The workshop will consider adjustments to the current emergency regulations given available water supply, storage, and snowpack.

“We’re going to have to think very carefully about what we do next,” Marcus said. “Do we lift the regulations and hope for a better next year… or do we continue but adjust the regulations to recognize that we are in better, but not tip-top shape?”

The State Water Board compares every urban water supplier’s water use with their use for the same month in 2013 to determine if they are on track for meeting their conservation standard. Urban water suppliers are expected to meet, or exceed, their individual conservation standard.

The City of Turlock missed its individual 32 percent water conservation mandate for February by a sizeable margin. For February Turlock had a conservation rate of 10.2 percent. Cumulatively, the City of Turlock has a water conservation rate of 25.7 percent, which is 6.3 percent short of hitting the targeted 32 percent.

Other local water suppliers failing to hit their cumulative water conservation goals were: the City of Ceres, which saved 24 percent of the 28 percent mandate; the City of Modesto, which had a conservation rate goal of 36 percent and met 27.8 percent of it; and the City of Riverbank, which had one of the worst conservation rates in the state, with just 7.9 percent of their 32 percent rate met.

Water suppliers surpassing their goal in this area included the City of Oakdale, which had a goal of 32 percent and saved 39 percent; the City of Patterson surpassed their goal of 28 percent by saving 29.7 percent; and the City of Merced exceeded their goal of 36 percent by saving 37.1 percent.

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