California Water Resource Managers Turning to Water Conservation, Recycling

Water conservation and water recycling are both on the rise in California, driven by concerns about water supply issues.

by James Laughlin

Water conservation and water recycling are both on the rise in California, driven by concerns about water supply issues. At the same time, interest in water security remains strong but the impact of security funding on day-to-day budgets seem to be declining, according to a recent survey by EIP Associates’ Water Resources Group.

EIP has just released the results of its second annual California Water Resources Industry Survey. Although not intended to be a comprehensive survey based on rigorous statistical methodologies, the survey provides a glimpse into what water resource professionals consider to be some of their more pressing issues, what is being done to address them, and some short-term trends reflecting how respondents’ views have changed over the past year.

The survey found that use of conservation as a water management technique is on the rise in California. More than half (58%) of respondents report using water conservation as a current water management technique - compared to only about a quarter (26%) of last year’s respondents.

More districts also are considering the use of recycling as a water management technique in the future. A majority (60%) of this year’s respondents indicate that their agency is considering the implementation of recycling, up from one third (33%) of last year’s respondents - almost a 100 percent increase.

Water security is still a major concern, but diversion of resources to security has decreased significantly. Though the importance of water system security was ranked slightly higher this year than last year, a vast majority of water professionals (90%) indicated that water security concerns have not diverted resources from efforts to improve water quality and supply, compared to roughly two-thirds (67%) last year.

Possible reasons for the change include the possibility that security improvements are requiring less emergency funding because much of the initial work has been completed, and security funding has become more of a budget line item.

When asked about their “greatest water priorities,” some 86 percent said that water supply was their greatest concern. In order of priority, water quality was next, followed by conservation and then security.

When asked about regulatory challenges, drinking water standards and, oddly, the endangered species act were to top two challenges for water resource managers. TMDLs, stormwater regulations and CEQA/NEPA reviews were also listed as regulatory challenges.

When asked about tools and processes used to solve water resource allocation issues, the respondents cited hydrologic modeling as their top tool. Facilitated public involvement was ranked second, moving up from fourth place during last year’s survey.

According to survey respondents, groundwater management is the most frequently used water management technique and is increasing in size. More than three quarters of respondent report that they use groundwater management, up from just over half last year. Water conservation is the fastest growing technique, however. The reported use of water conservation grew from a quarter of respondents in 2004 to more than half in 2005.

EIP Associates is a listed consultant with the California Urban Water Conservation Council, providing specific expertise in the areas of water conservation and water resource planning. The complete survey and its results can be found on the company’s website at:

James Laughlin, Editor

More in Home