California Does a Little Better on Conservation

For now. The board will release Californians' latest monthly water-use figures Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, under the state's almost three-year drought emergency. The savings represented a slight uptick from the 17.5% reduction urban Californians managed in August.

The state Water Resources Control Board released figures Tuesday showing Californians in September used 18 per cent less water than they did in 2013 before the declaration of a drought emergency. Environmental groups argue declining water conservation over the past four months warrants a return to mandatory conservation, while water agencies are fighting the idea.

Conservation backsliding has been a point of concern among officials in recent months.

Northern California, where most of the main reservoirs are, has logged an unusually wet October.

In its statement Tuesday, the board praised many water suppliers for maintaining high levels of conservation - including some that saved more this September than in September 2015. They listed the San Juan Water District, the supplier The Times focused on in its report, as one they were "particularly concerned about".

The cumulative statewide savings from June 2015 through September 2016 was 23 percent, compared with the same months in 2013. The bill, called the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755) from Assemblymember Bill Dodd, is meant to improve access to water transfer information and other water and ecological data as California continues to deal with the drought.

The California Water Data Challenge, announced on Friday, invites interested individuals and teams to develop apps, websites, data visualizations or other tools "that leverage publicly available data sets in novel ways to support creative solutions to California's water challenges, as outlined in the Brown administration's California Water Action Plan", according to a joint release by several state agencies supporting the competition.

In Long Beach conservation also dropped from 18.6 percent in September 2015 to 14.7 percent, but reported only 66.5 gallons used per person each day.

Although mandatory water conservation orders have been lifted, Californians in urban areas are continuing to limit their water use particularly with outdoor irrigation.

"The state board has failed the people of California by letting water agencies off the hook for mandatory conservation", said Tracy Quinn, senior water policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. That's after alarming August water-use figures showed Californians' conservation efforts plummeting by a third from the year before.

In her statement, Quinn called for a return to mandatory conservation targets and "a suite of strong permanent conservation measures".

  • Aubrey Nash