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California fails to meet water savings goal
State Water Board: 'We cant count on El Nio to save us'

January marked the first time California urban water suppliers fell short of meeting Gov. Jerry’s Brown’s 25 percent cumulative water conservation mandate since the emergency regulation went into effect eight months ago.

Statewide water savings last month totaled to 17.1 percent, or 20.4 billion gallons, which was preceded by three months that were also unsuccessful in meeting the monthly 25 percent California standard.

With California remaining in a drought, the State Water Resource Control Board urged Californians to refocus their efforts to conserve through the winter and spring months by complying with urban water supplier water schedules, not irrigating outdoors during and within 48 hours following a rain event, and fixing leaks that are discovered during individual water user audits.

 “We’re hoping for every raindrop and every snowflake we can handle. We’re hoping for a miracle March and an awesome April. But we can’t know what the next couple months will bring. And a warm and dry February has proved that we can’t count on El Niño to save us,” said SWRCB Chair Felicia Marcus. “Californians have risen to the occasion as never before. But we have to stay the course. We have to keep it up.”

Despite California’s discouraging 24.8 percent in cumulative savings, the state has still managed to make an unprecedented conservation achievement by saving more than 1.1 million acre-feet of water from June through January, placing it at 96 percent of the way toward reaching its goal of 1.2 million acre-feet of water to be conserved by the end of this month. 

Statewide, the conservation rate dropped from 18.4 percent in December 2015 to 17.1 percent in January, a reduction the SWRCB attributed to a warmer January than what was experienced three years ago. While it was noted that residents generally use less water for outdoor irrigation in the winter months, which presents less opportunities for water savings,  average per capita water use declined from 67 gallons per person per day in December 2015 to 61 gallons in January, which marks the lowest statewide per-person rate since water-use reporting began in June 2014.

The City of Turlock was unable meeting its individual 32 percent water conservation mandate with a less-than-satisfactory 15.2 percent saved in January. The cumulative amount saved by the City since emergency regulation took effect in June 2014 now stands at 26.6 percent.

Other local water suppliers that were unable to meet their water-saving goal in January include the City of Ceres, which was only able to save 15.2 percent of its 32 percent water conservation mandate, and the City of Modesto, which fell short of meeting its 36 percent goal with only 16.9 percent conserved last month.

The City of Oakdale was one regional provider that was able to meet its 32 percent water conservation mandate with 36.8 percent saved in January.

As part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order for water use reduction in cities and towns across California, the SWRCB 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 starting in June and continuing through February.

The SWRCB voted earlier this month to continue emergency regulation to promote further water conservation in 2016. This was in response to Brown’s Executive Order in November 2015 that directed the SWRCB to extend the emergency water conservation regulation if drought conditions persisted through January. Under the revised regulation, urban water use will continue to fall under restrictions through October; however urban water suppliers will be able to exercise more flexibility in meeting their conservation requirements.