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State hitting water saving goals; Turlock falling short
brown grass
Despite multiple lawns around Turlock turning a distinctive golden color, the city failed to reach its water conservation goal for the month of June. - photo by Journal file photo

Even with the sweltering June temperatures, most of California’s cities and water districts were able to make their target goals for water conservation for the month, according to the State Water Resources Board.

Californians reduced their water usage by 27.3 percent in June, exceeding Gov. Jerry Brown’s April mandate of a 25 percent water use reduction for the state. In May, the SWRB adopted an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use. The regulation uses a sliding scale for setting conservation standards, so that communities that have already reduced their residential gallons per capita per day through past conservation will have lower mandates than those that have not made such gains since the last major drought. Each month, the SWRB 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.

“Californians understand the severity of the drought and they are taking action, as shown by the numbers released today,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “We didn’t know if the positive showing in May was due in part to cooler temperatures. This report shows that residents knew they had to keep conserving even during the summer heat and they kept the sprinklers off more than they would in a normal year. That’s the right attitude as we head into August and September heat — in the drought of the century with no certain end date.”

Despite being the hottest June on record for much of the state, the urban water suppliers exceeded the statewide conservation goal, saving 59.4 billion gallons (182,151 acre-feet), as compared to the same time in 2013. June conservation efforts put California on track to achieve the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal by February 2016, as called for by Gov. Brown in his April 1 executive order. In the state, 265 water suppliers, serving 27.2 million people met or exceeded their conservation standard. Almost 40 percent of all urban water suppliers reduced their water use by 30 percent or more.

While a good majority of cities are hitting their goals for water conservation, the cities in Stanislaus County, with the exclusion of Oakdale and Newman, fell short of their percentage marks, according to the SWRB’s data.

Turlock, which has a water conservation goal of 32 percent, had one of the lowest rates of conservation in the county, with 19.2 percent.

“We fell a little bit short of our water conservation goal,” Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke told the Turlock City Council during a water usage update at the Tuesday night meeting. “Fingers crossed we should be pretty darn close to meeting that 32 percent target by the end of this month.”

Cooke told the Council the City is taking proactive efforts to conserve water, including more “aggressive” targeting of residents wasting water. In the first six month of the year the City handed out 940 notices of water violations mostly for watering on the wrong days or times. In July the City handed out 603 notices, of which 571 were to first time offenders and 32 were to repeat offenders. The City’s online water school, which educates residents on smart water usage, went active this week.

Modesto missed their goal by a slight margin. They are expected to conserve 36 percent and they recorded 34.1 percent. Oakdale exceeded their goal of 32 percent by conserving 44 percent. Ceres had a goal of 28 percent and saved 18.3 percent.

Across the state, water suppliers reported that their compliance and enforcement programs saw an almost twofold increase in the number of complaints of water waste which resulted in a big jump in reported penalties. The SWRB reported 43,942 water waste complaints were issued statewide by 371 suppliers, compared with 28,793 complaints reported in May by 353 suppliers.

Of the 405 California  suppliers reporting, 265 suppliers (65 percent) met, or were within one percent of, their conservation standard; 53 suppliers (13 percent) are between one and five percent of meeting their conservation standard; and 71 suppliers (18 percent) are between five and 15 percent of meeting their conservation standard. However, there are 16 suppliers (four percent) that are more than 15 percent from meeting their conservation standard. The SWRB will be contacting all suppliers more than one percent away from meeting their conservation standard and requiring many to provide information about their existing conservation programs and the steps they are taking to boost conservation. The suppliers furthest from meeting their conservation standard will be directed to take additional actions, such as imposing further restrictions on outdoor irrigation and increasing outreach and enforcement.

Monthly water use reports are required by the emergency water conservation regulation, and are provided to the SWRB by urban water suppliers. Urban water suppliers are expected to meet, or exceed, their individual conservation standard starting in June and continuing through February 2016. The SWRCB reported four water suppliers in California had not imposed mandatory irrigation restrictions, and 19 suppliers still allow outdoor watering seven days a week.