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State sees improved reductions in water usage
Turlock exceeded conservation standard in April
ck. - photo by Photo Contributed

Californians recorded a water conservation rate in April that surpassed state standards, according to the latest numbers from the State Water Resources Control Board.

The savings come amidst a change in course by the State Water Board as they set new standards and handed over control of conservation mandates to local water districts, which in the case of Turlock would be the city of Turlock.

California saw a 26.1 percent reduction in April over the usage in 2013, which was used as the benchmark year in Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015 emergency mandate to reduce water usage by 25 percent in the state.

Turlock recorded a water conservation rate of 32.1 percent in April when compared to April 2013. Turlock had been striving to reach a 32 percent reduction since the governor’s mandate was issued, until earlier this year when new standards were set and the goal was dropped down to 29 percent for Turlock.

Cumulatively, from June 2015 to April, Turlock has dropped water usage by 26.8 percent, missing the conservation goal by 2.2 percent.

The State Water Board rates Turlock as being in the third level of compliance, meaning the city is between one to five percentage points from meeting standards. Of the 295 suppliers reporting to the water board, 282 have met their goal or are within one percentage point of meeting it. Of the remaining suppliers, 57 are in level three; 52 in level 2 compliance, signifying the districts are within five to 15 percentage points of meeting the standards; and four are in level one, meaning the districts have more than 15 percentage points to reach the conservation standard.

In Stanislaus County the City of Riverbank is in compliance one because they have a target reduction of 30 percent and saved cumulatively 14 percent. However, for the month of April Riverbank saved 42.7 percent. Modesto has a savings goal of 33 percent and has saved 29.3 percent cumulatively and 35.7 percent for the month. Ceres has a target of 26 percent and saved 24.7 percent in April and 24.2 cumulatively. Oakdale has done the best at saving water in Stanislaus County, with a reduction goal of 30 percent and actual cumulative savings of 40.9 percent. For April, Oakdale had a water reduction rate of 45.7 percent.

California saw an increase in rainfall this last winter when compared to recent winters past, but 60 percent of the state remains in a severe drought, with many groundwater basins and reservoirs badly depleted, according to the State Water Board.

“Californians continue to demonstrate that they are serious about water conservation, which is fabulous,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “We will be watching closely to make sure that water agencies continue to prioritize the conservation habits their customers have adopted, and don’t fall back into business as usual. In particular we expect them to continue to enforce bans on the worst types of wasteful water use, and to take a prudent approach with their water budgets.”

The newly adjusted State Water Board regulation places responsibility on each local water supplier to calculate its own conservation standards for customers based on a “stress test,” which requires them to prove they have sufficient water supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought, or take additional measures that include mandatory conservation targets. Water suppliers that fail to meet these new conservation standards may still face enforcement from the State Water Board.

Under the new “stress test” approach adopted by the State Water Board last month, local water agencies are required to publicly disclose the projections and calculations used to determine their conservation standards, and to continue their monthly water conservation reporting. The localized “stress test” approach took effect June 1, with each agency expected to identify its conservation standard no later than June 22.  The “stress-test” conservation standards will be in effect through January 2017. Turlock is in the process of establishing a conservation standard.

“While El Nino didn’t bring the record precipitation predicted, it did help many communities.  But we don’t know what next year will bring, so we need to keep conserving,” Marcus said. “We are trying a different approach, replacing a top-down requirement with a ‘show us the water’ approach that requires urban water suppliers show us, their consumers, and the public exactly what water supplies they are relying on, in concert with conservation, to be water secure for at least three more dry years on top of the four tough years we’ve already seen.”

While water agencies may calculate lower conservation targets for the next nine months, the State Water Board expects that they will continue to achieve water conservation with their customers regardless of local supply situations.

The recently adopted regulation also continues the statewide ban on specific wasteful uses, such as hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes, and watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff. Prohibitions remain as well against home owners associations or local governments taking action against homeowners who reduce or stop watering lawns.

Including the results for April, Californians have saved more than 1.43 million acre-feet of water since June 2015, a 24.1 percent reduction in water use compared to the same months in 2013. Water saved during the 11 month period was enough to supply 7.2 million Californians for one year, or 18 percent of the state’s population.

“While we’re relieved at the snow and rainfall some areas of the state got this winter and have adjusted our approach accordingly, we will be looking carefully at the data that comes in on water sources and on conservation rates and will be prepared to raise questions and to step back to a top-down requirement if necessary, in individual cases or overall,” Marcus said. “Conservation must become a California way of life—it’s just the smart thing to do with a precious resource.”

The State Water Board stressed that continued conservation is especially critical during the hot summer months, when the potential for water savings is greatest.

“Summer is when we use far more water than we need to,” Marcus said. “Keeping our lawns on a water diet is the easiest way to save every valuable drop we can in our local reservoirs and groundwater basins for the future. Californians most need to keep up their impressive conservation in the summer months—wherever they are in the state.  The fact is that we could be staring down the barrel of continued drought into 2017 and last winter’s rain and snow could just be a punctuation mark in a longer drought.”