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Top Story: California’s Cumulative Water Savings Continue to Meet Governor’s Ongoing Conservation Mandate

Workshop to renew regulations set for Dec. 7; Deadline for small water system reporting is Dec. 15

Contact: George Kostyrko
gkostyrko@waterboards.ca.gov

For Immediate Release
Dec 1, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Californians have reduced water use by 27.1 percent in the five months since emergency conservation regulations took effect in June, continuing to meet Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 25 percent mandate despite a decline in the statewide water-savings rate for October.  

In October, when outdoor water use – and the opportunity for significant savings – typically drops off from the hot summer months, the statewide conservation rate was 22.2 percent, down from 26.4 percent in September. Adding to the challenge, October brought temperatures that were well above normal for most of the state.  Nonetheless, average statewide water use declined from 97 gallons per person per day in September to 87 in October. 

“We anticipated a dip in the conservation rate for October, but it is not because people are losing interest--they actually did quite well considering how unusually hot it was in October,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “It’s harder to keep the percentages up in the fall and winter when little outdoor watering takes place. That’s why the savings over the summer were so important. Now, we need to keep finding ways to save water. While El Nino storms may bring significant rain this winter, the depth of our drought and the uncertainty of the amount, type, and location of precipitation means we have to continue conserving every way we can.  In other words, unless we get a ton of snow in the Sierras that lasts through April, every drop saved today is one we’ll be glad we have tomorrow.”

A public workshop to discuss concepts for a renewed urban water conservation regulation has been set for Dec. 7. The current drought emergency water conservation regulation adopted by the board in May expires in February 2016. Last month, the Governor issued an additional Executive Order giving the State Water Board authority to extend and revise the emergency water conservation regulations.  State Water Board is soliciting public comment on what the next iteration of the regulation will look like. Following public review and comment, the Board tentatively plans to adopt the updated regulations by late January or early February.

At the same time, the State Water Board is reminding small water suppliers (those with 3,000 or fewer customers) that they are required to report water use by December 15. While large urban suppliers have been required to report water conservation information every month, small water suppliers must report only once. The regulations state that small water suppliers must limit outdoor landscape irrigation to no more than two days per week or reduce total potable water production by 25 percent as compared to 2013. The full report of information submitted by small water suppliers is expected to be available by mid-January 2016 here.

The State Water Board tracks water conservation for each of the state’s urban water suppliers on a monthly basis, but compliance with individual water supplier conservation requirements and the statewide 25 percent mandate is based on cumulative savings.  Cumulative tracking means that conservation savings will be added together from one month to the next and compared to the amount of water used during the same months in 2013.

October Conservation Data

  • For June through October, the cumulative statewide reduction was 27.1 percent, compared with the same months in 2013. That equates to 913,851 acre-feet (297.8 billion gallons), or 76 percent of the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal to be achieved by the end of February 2016.
  • Statewide water savings for October was 22.2 percent (128,901 acre‑feet or 41.9 billion gallons), a decrease from September’s 26.2 percent savings. See fact sheet here.
  • Statewide, the average water use for October was 87 residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD), a decrease from the 97 residential gallons per capita per day reported for September.
  • Although October 2015 had the lowest level of monthly savings since June 2015, suppliers still saved more than three times the volume of water saved in October 2014.
  • The last five months have been the hottest on record and October was no exception, with higher average temperatures than October 2013.

Enforcement Data

  • Suppliers reported 69,999 compliance and enforcement actions taken in October, a decrease from the 77,868 actions suppliers reported in September. See the enforcement statistics for more information.
  • The Office of Enforcement continues to work with suppliers that have not met their conservation standard. Since June, the State Water Board has issued:

October saw a decrease in compliance by water suppliers. Of the 409 suppliers reporting for October, 69 percent met or were within one percentage point of meeting their conservation standard and 15 percent were between one and five percentage points of meeting their standard. For more information, visit the enforcement page.

Conservation Must Continue Through Winter

Residential water users are urged to keep up their efforts to conserve through the winter months. That includes complying with urban water supplier directives to switch to watering schedules of once a week as well as a prohibition against watering during a rain event and 48 hours directly following a rain event.

“We can’t know when the drought will end, so we have to keep saving every drop we can,” Chair Marcus said. “Predictions are just that, predictions.  Having the odds in our favor, can give us hope, but not the certainty we need to relax our efforts.”

Conservation programs put in place during the late spring and early summer months by most of the state’s water suppliers have yielded dramatic reductions in water use and a reexamination of personal water-use habits. In addition to many effective local programs, state-funded turf removal and toilet replacement rebates are also now available. Information and rebate applications are available at: www.saveourwaterrebates.com/.

Background

In his April 1 Executive Order, Gov. Brown mandated a 25 percent water use reduction for cities and towns across California.

In May, the State Water Board 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 R-GPCD through past conservation will have lower mandates than those that have not made such gains since the last major drought. In his most recent Executive Order issued Nov. 13, the Governor directed the State Water Board to extend, and potentially modify, its drought emergency water conservation regulation if drought conditions persist through January 2016.

Each month, the State Water Board 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. Local water agencies determine the most cost effective and locally appropriate way to achieve their standard. The State Water Board will work closely with water suppliers to implement the regulation and improve local efforts that are falling short.

California has been dealing with the effects of an unprecedented drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com.

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