Water use drops 31 percent statewide, beats July mandate

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Californians reduced their overall water use by 31.3 percent in July, exceeding Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandated cuts of 25 percent, according to new numbers from the State Water Resources Control Board. 

Among the top performing suppliers singled out by the water board, Golden State Water Company Simi Valley saw a reduction of 40 percent, and the cities of Menlo ParkSanta Cruz, Santa Rosa and West Sacramento reduced water use by more than 30 percent each. Locally the South Coast region as a whole saved 28.3 percent, helped by an especially wet July.

South Coast Water graph for July

“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear and shows that they get that we are in the drought of our lives. This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought, this is the drought of the century,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a statement.

The goal set out by Brown in his April 1 executive order is to save 1.2 million acre-feet of water by February 2016. July’s savings brought the state nearly a quarter-million acre-feet closer to its goal, according to the statement.

Savings are calculated by comparing the water use in a given month to the same month in 2013.

Regulators say the dry, hot summer months are critical to meeting the statewide goal.

“Historically, water use rises dramatically in the hot summer months, primarily for landscape watering, which on average constitutes 50 percent of urban water use, in some cases far more. This is the time when we can most easily save the most water,” Marcus said.

Marcus focused attention on cumulative savings so far, during the first two months of a nine-month compliance period for the emergency regulations.

Some highlights in the South Coast and Colorado River regions:

  • As Mayor Eric Garcetti and several Department of Water and Power officials have celebrated, Angelenos cut water use 21 percent in July, meaning that the city has a cumulative savings of 18.4percent so far.
  • Serrano Water District, headquartered in the tiny Orange County town of Villa Park, is saving 45 percent, exceeding its target for a 36 percent cutback. Serrano has hiked rates, but recently suspended penalties it had planned to charge for excessive water use in July and August. Along with Claremont, Serrano is saving the most in the South Coast hydrologic region
  • Less wealthy communities with conservation targets at the low end are surpassing and in some cases doubling their goals. East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Paramount all overperformed; Bell and Compton are saving 17.7 percent and 16.7 percent respectively, two months into the compliance period.
  • Beverly Hills, with a goal of 32 percent cutbacks, has saved 21.8 percent so far. Malibu has inched up, saving 25.7 percent towards its 36 percent conservation goal. Still, both cities - and all other districts that missed their targets by anywhere from five to 15 percentage points -- have been sent violation notices and formal requests for information on water use and conservation efforts.
  • Regulators praised the Coachella Valley Water District, which saved almost 41percent in July; while the district has not yet hit its 36percent conservation goal overall, it has begun charging higher water users higher rates, a tool that appears to be having some effect.

According to the water board, Californians saved four times more water in July than they did the same time last year — 74.6 billion gallons compared with 18 billion gallons. At the time, the statewide mandatory restrictions had not been implemented, and a voluntary 20 percent conservation goal was in place instead.

Statewide, residential water use averaged 98 gallons per person per day for July. Last year, that number was 132.9 gallons, according to the water board.

Overall, 290 out of 402 water suppliers that submitted reports for July met or fell within 1 percent of their individual conservation standards. Nearly 70 of those suppliers exceeded their targets by 15 percent or more.

Forecasters have strengthened predictions for an El Niño in California in the coming months. Still, Marcus and other regulators emphasized that they intended to stay the course set by emergency drought regulations and seek strong water conservation from the public.

“I want to be clear, we will welcome all of the rain and snow that we can safely handle, and we’ll hope for the best, but we still need to plan for the worst,” Marcus said. “On this one, it ain’t over till it's over.”

Wonder how the water supplier in your area did? Search our interactive database of water use figures to drill down by region and water agency.

This story has been updated.

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