By Kiley Russell. Bay City News
The latest statewide water conservation numbers are improving, more than doubling from May to June, with the Bay Area leading the way.
In June, statewide water consumption was down 7.6 percent compared to June 2020, while in May Californians reduced water use by only 3.1 percent, according to a report from the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday.
"The second round of emergency drought regulations went into effect at the end of May and the numbers seem to indicate that we are seeing some positive impacts," said Marielle Pinheiro, data specialist with the Water Board's Office of Research, Planning and Development.
The emergency regulations require all 436 urban water suppliers in the state to implement Stage 2 Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which vary from supplier to supplier, but can include such things as fines or additional charges for excessive water consumption, as well as incentives for conservation and for replacing water-intensive landscaping.
For example, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which supplies drinking water to 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, mandated a 10 percent water use reduction, tightened restrictions on outdoor water use, and reinstated its Excessive Use Penalty Ordinance, which includes fines of $2 for every 748 gallons of water used above the 1,646-gallon threshold, among other things.
The district says it recorded water use reductions of 6 percent in May, 12 percent in June and 16 percent in July compared to 2020.
"Customer savings numbers are moving in the right direction, but we know we need to do more," EBMUD General Manager Clifford Chan said in a press release Tuesday.
"EBMUD asks its customers to continue to conserve and, if they can, make further changes to generate long-term impacts on their water-use habits," Chan said.
In addition, in June, the Water Board banned the use of potable water on "decorative or non-functional turf" on commercial, industrial and institutional properties statewide.
"I think the numbers are definitely going in the right direction," said Dave Eggerton, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.
"It's positive and it's only getting better," said Eggerton, whose association represents hundreds of water systems that together deliver about 90 percent of the state's water to residential and commercial users.
Water Board President Joaquin Esquivel said the June conservation figures are encouraging, coming after two months, March and April, in which statewide water use figures were up 18.7 percent and 17.8 percent.
"What's important to see is that turnaround," Esquivel stressed. "At the end of May we passed our regulations, all water agencies are now on Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plan and we started banning non-functional lawn irrigation."
In June, all 10 of the state's hydrologic regions reported a decrease in water use, with the Bay Area topping the list at 12.6 percent, followed by the North Coast and San Joaquin River regions at just over 10 percent each.
The South Coast region, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego and is home to more than 55 percent of the state's population, recorded a nearly 6 percent drop in water use.
From July 2021 through June 2022, the state's cumulative water use was reduced by 2.7 percent compared to 2020, still well below the 15 percent conservation target set by Governor Gavin Newsom.
"We met with the governor recently and he made it very clear that he wants this to happen," Eggerton said. "It's a critical part of our response to the drought."
Eggerton also said the state must continue to invest in water supply and storage systems to build resilience in the face of continued temperature increases and declining precipitation.
"We really need to capture as much (water) as we can when we have wet years to be in a better position to meet the challenges we have now," he finished.
You may be interested in: Redwood City maintains Stage 2 water shortage emergency