Residents across the state — and in Turlock — conserved less water in June, during the first month of eased drought restrictions.
Water conservation statewide fell to 21.5 percent savings in June — down from 27.5 percent a year ago, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.
"Californians have continued to conserve without top down mandates, but the question is whether we can save enough and keep it up for the long haul,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “While last winter’s rains allowed us to ease state mandated conservation, that didn’t mean the drought was over or that local conservation efforts should stop — and we’re looking carefully at the data to see what’s happening where, and why."
Starting in June, the State Water Board’s recently updated emergency water conservation regulations gave urban water agencies the ability to set their own conservation standards based on a “stress test” of supply reliability. Water suppliers must demonstrate that they have sufficient supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought or take additional measures that include mandatory conservation targets. The regulation is in effect through January 2017.
Turlock had been striving to reach a 32 percent reduction following Governor Jerry Brown's 2015 conservation mandate, until earlier this year when new standards were set and the goal was dropped down to 29 percent for Turlock.
Under the new "stress test" Turlock's goal would be 16 percent, however, the City of Turlock is mandating a 20 percent conservation goal due to the area's groundwater issues. Currently, all of the City's water is pumped from the ground and over the past three years there's been a 19 percent reduction in pumping capacity due to the loss of four wells. Along with the loss of wells, the City is also having to pump deeper to find water. From 1986 to 2015, Turlock's aquifer dropped 26 feet, resulting in a 91.5 billion gallon reduction in water.
Also in June, the City implemented a new irrigation schedule that only allows watering two days a week and prohibits watering during the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., every day of the week.
Despite these efforts, however, Turlock fell short in its conservation goal.
For the month of June, Turlock saw 13.2 percent water savings, down from the 19.2 percent conservation recorded in June 2015.
Cumulatively, local water suppliers across the state have saved 1.75 million acre feet in the 13 months since mandatory conservation goals began – enough water to supply 8.8 million people for a year. The cumulative average savings June 2015-June 2016 is 24.2 percent.
“Conservation should be the California way of life," said Marcus. "Some relaxation of conservation in light of the relief we got last winter and other supply conditions is appropriate and expected; abandonment of conservation is not. Saving water now extends local water supplies into an uncertain future, and saves money in the long term on the need to develop additional supplies. In particular, the summer months are the time it’s easiest to save by reducing outdoor irrigation to the minimum needed to water trees and shrubs while letting our lawns go the color of the surrounding hillsides.”