Californians “Just Shy” of water conservation mandate

State regulators have released the water conservation tally for the past nine months of mandatory reductions and applauded Californians for cumulatively saving 23.9% compared with the same months in 2013.

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CALIFORNIA, April 5, 2016 -- State regulators have released the water conservation tally for the past nine months of mandatory reductions and applauded Californians for coming “just shy” of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s 25% water conservation mandate by cumulatively saving 23.9% compared with the same months in 2013.

Despite an exceptionally warm and dry month of February, Californians saved nearly 1.19 million acre-feet of water from June 2015 through February 2016 – 96% of the savings goal of 1.24 million acre-feet. Water saved during that period is enough to supply 5.9 million Californians during a one-year period, officials said.

“Californians’ performance was huge..,” State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus said during a press call. “Some communities saved 40% or more.”

Marcus and other officials from the State Water Board cautioned that conservation is still needed, especially since El Niño didn’t bring expected heavy rains to Southern California.

“We were hoping to get a Miracle March and we got a Modest March,” said Marcus.

Statewide, the conservation rate dropped from 17.15% in January to 12% in February, likely due to the warm, dry February. Residents also typically use much less water for outdoor irrigation in the winter months, so there is less opportunity for high volume savings.

The State Water Board will hold a public workshop on April 20 to receive input on conservation adjustments to the current emergency regulations in light of improved water supply, storage, and snowpack, officials said.

Max Gomberg, a staff scientist with the State Water Board, said regulators, in considering adjustments to the current emergency regulation, will look at regional drought disparities and water supply conditions.

Marcus, in a call with reporters, also indicated that the current emergency regulation may need to be adjusted.

“I think we need to adjust it to recognize the reality we are in…,” said Marcus. “I don’t think any state has done (mandatory conservation) on a statewide level because most water is managed locally.”

Officials urged Californians to continue to conserve water, and to adopt efficient methods to save stressed trees. They directed residents to the state’s officials water conservation campaign run in partnership between the Department of Water Resources and ACWA.

Regulators also released data on water agencies that received warning letters, fines or other enforcement actions for not meeting their state-mandated conservation targets. Officials discussed some unique programs where state regulators met with agencies that missed their targets and helped them develop uniquely tailored conservation programs in lieu of fines. In the Coachella Valley Water District, for example, the state and the local agency developed a certification program for landscapers to learn targeted water conservation techniques. Indio Water Authority developed a program specifically targeting disadvantaged communities.

An updated and extended emergency regulation was adopted by the State Water Board on Feb. 2 and took effect Feb. 11. The regulation extends restrictions on urban water use through October while providing urban water suppliers some adjustments in the conservation requirements they must meet. The extended regulation responds to calls for continuing the conservation structure that has spurred such dramatic savings so far while providing greater consideration of some factors that influence water use: climate, population growth and significant investments in new local, drought-resilient water supplies such as wastewater reuse and desalination. The action follows Brown's Nov. 13, 2015 Executive Order directing the State Water Board to extend the emergency water conservation regulation through Oct. 31, 2016 should drought conditions persist.

Here is some additional February conservation data:
- Statewide water savings for February 2016 was 12% (41,591 acre-feet or 13.6 billion gallons), a decrease from January 2016’s 17.1% savings.
- February 2016 compliance indicates that 55% of suppliers met their conservation standards.
-Statewide average water use for February was 67 residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD), closely matching the December 2015 average but higher than January’s all-time low of 61 gallons per person per day.

Since June 2015 the State Water Board has issued:
- 98 warning letters
- 118 notices of violation
- 12 conservation orders (one was rescinded due to compliance)
- Four Administrative Civil Liability Complaints (one ACL paid; three in negotiations); and
- Seven alternative compliance orders.

About ACWA
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Its 430 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90% of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.

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