Although celebrated, recent rain certainly has not meant the end of the unprecedented drought in California or strict water conservation measures as the State Water Resources Control Board voted on Tuesday to continue emergency regulation to promote further water conservation in 2016.
“After four years of extreme drought, there is still a need for Californians to keep up their stellar conservation practices,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “This updated regulation acknowledges that need, while making adjustments in response to feedback from water suppliers and others. If we continue to receive a lot of rain and snow in February and March, we may scale back the conservation requirements further, drop them, or move to another approach.”
Tuesday’s decision is in response to Gov. Jerry 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.
Unlike the prior mandate, which required the state to decrease water use by 25 percent when compared to 2013, the revised regulation expects statewide water conservation to exceed a lesser 20 percent.
“We expect a savings rate greater than 20 percent, but perhaps not quite achieving the prior call for 25 percent,” said Marcus. “We anticipated this might occur with any tweaks to our existing regulation. This regulation should still allow this state to save more than 1 million acre-feet of water through October 2016, which is enough water to serve an average of two million California families.
The regulation also responds to calls for greater consideration of factors that play a role in water use throughout California, including climate, population growth and significant investments in new local, drought resilient water sources.
This is the fourth iteration of the emergency regulation since the SWRCB first implemented the statewide conservation requirements in July 2014. The regulation will now be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law, which will review and approve or deny the regulation. If approved by the Office of Administrative Law, the regulation will take effect immediately and remain in effect for 270 days from the approval date.
“While we are hopeful that we are turning the corner on this drought, the truth is that it’s just too soon to tell,” said Marcus. “Any additional water we can conserve today will serve us well tomorrow if the drought continues.”
California monthly conservation rate declines, Turlock exceeds goal for second consecutive month
A report released on Tuesday by the SWRCB revealed that California’s monthly water savings continued to decline during the last three months of 2015, with the latest statewide conservation rate of 18.3 percent, or 24.7 billion gallons, in December.
A monthly amount that is down from 20.4 percent in November, the SWRCB expected this drop during the cooler fall and winter months since these months are when Californians use less water and have fewer opportunities to save on outdoor water use when compared with the hot summer months.
Despite this decline, however, Californians have managed to reduce water use by 25.5 percent since June, which is just able to surpass Brown’s 25 percent mandate.
The SWRCB continues to urge Californians to keep up their water saving efforts in order to conserve throughout the remaining winter months, which includes complying with urban water supplier directives to switch to one-a-week watering schedules and not using outdoor irrigation during and within 48 hours of rainfall.
“While the recent rains and growing snowpack are wonderful to behold, we won’t know until spring what effect it will have on the bottom line for California’s unprecedented drought,” said Marcus. “Until we tally that ledger, we have to keep conserving water every way we can. Every drop saved today is one that we may be very glad we have tomorrow.”
The City of Turlock continued its success in meeting its individual 32 percent water conservation mandate in December with 33.3 percent in water savings, while the City of Oakdale also managed to squeeze past its 32 percent water conservation standard by .2 percent.
The City of Modesto once again did not meet its water savings goal of 36 percent in December with only 24.3 percent conserved. The City of Ceres also fell short of meeting its 28 percent goal as well with 23.7 percent in water savings. Contributing to lower monthly savings, December saw the lowest level of water provider compliance to date with 60 percent of suppliers meeting their conservation standards.
The amount of water saved by all Californians in the seventh-month span between June and December is equal to nearly 1.1 million acre-feet of water, which puts the state 91 percent of the way towards meeting its 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal to be achieved through February.