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Turlock encouraged to continue conserving despite record rainfall

Even after what he called “abundant rainfall, record snowpack, swollen rivers and maxed out reservoirs,” City of Turlock Director of Municipal Services Michael Cooke said that water conservation efforts remain as vital as ever since it might be years until the city begins to see positive impacts to the aquifer.

“Turlock obtains all of its water supply from groundwater,” said Cooke. “We still have a number of wells offline due to water quality concerns and the aquifer is still at record levels. Right now, the City’s water resources are not at pre-drought levels so water conservation will remain important this year.”

As detailed in the State Water Resources Control Board’s most recent report, the City of Turlock missed its 20 percent conservation standard with a 12.4 percent in water savings in January when compared to the same month in 2013. Last January, Turlock brought in a total water savings of 15.2 percent.

“While we fell a little short in January, Turlock’s residents and businesses have been doing an excellent job of conserving water over the past three years,” said Cooke. “Last year, our overall conservation was 23 percent. Furthermore, our preliminary numbers for February show a 27 percent reduction — this is excellent news.”

Cooke said that while it may seem “counterintuitive” that water use is up during a time when the region is experiencing record rainfall, the data in the State Water Board’s report reflects water usage inside homes and businesses — not landscape water use — as many residents have turned off their yard sprinklers. He also noted that January’s numbers show an increase in water use by industries, which he regarded as a “hopeful sign of economic growth in the industrial sector.”

“When we drilled into January’s numbers, we found that water use by our industries was up 10 percent over last year,” said Cooke. “This appears to be a sign of increased production at food processing facilities.”

On Tuesday, the State Water Board announced that urban Californians’ monthly water conservation came in at 20.5 percent in January, which is an increase from the 17.2 percent savings last year when state-mandated conservation targets were in place. The monthly savings, which equate to roughly 74,249 acre-feet or 24.2 billion gallons, were a slight decrease from December 2016’s 20.6 percent savings.

The cumulative statewide savings from June 2015 through January remain at 22.5 percent when compared to the same months in 2013. Since June 2015, 2.51 million acre-feet, or 818 billion gallons, of water has been saved, which is enough water to supply more than 12.5 million people — nearly a third of the state’s population — for a year.

After five years of extreme drought, this winter has generated record precipitation and caused flooding in multiple locations throughout the state. This swing from extremely dry to extremely wet conditions is becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change, according to the State Water Board, which adopted a resolution Tuesday to address climate change impacts, including enhanced protection of vulnerable communities and infrastructure from droughts, floods and sea level rise.

“Californians continue to conserve despite the wet weather in many areas,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “This ongoing effort is important rain or shine for all sorts of reasons, in light of the greater extremes we can expect with climate change and increasingly weird weather. We’re going to need to use all our tools including conservation and efficiency, water recycling, storm water capture, and storing water above and below ground in wet times to get us through the dry times to deal with the Mack truck of climate change that has already arrived.

“Californians understand that ongoing water conservation benefits everyone, and we are grateful that people have not forgotten five years of devastating drought now that our reservoirs are overflowing,” continued Marcus.

In February, the State Water Board extended its existing water conservation regulations, which prohibit wasteful practices, such as watering lawns right after rain, and set a conservation mandate only for urban water suppliers that could not demonstrate they have enough water reserves to withstand an additional three dry years. The Board plans to revisit the conservation regulation in May.