Water, water everywhere, but we still need to save

Rain falls over Pasadena on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2015. A series of storms is expected to dump up to six inches of rain on the Southland this week.
Rain falls over Pasadena on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2015. A series of storms is expected to dump up to six inches of rain on the Southland this week.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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As rain and snow pound the region in the first big storm of the season, state water officials on Tuesday pushed the need for continued conservation. The call comes as California has missed its conservation target for the second month in a row.

The state’s conservation rate in November was 20.3 percent below the 2013 baseline. California is still on target to hit its mandated 25 percent reduction in water use largely because of significant savings made during warmer months.

Despite the setback. the average daily per capita usage of 75 gallons per person in November was the lowest since emergency water regulation went into effect. Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said the low usage rate reflects continued efforts to conserve.

“We expected the percentage drop in the cooler fall and winter months when we use less water in general so we are still on track,” Marcus said. "The fact that per person water use dropped to 75 gallons per person per day on average is proof that Californians are clearly thinking twice before turning on the tap.”

Conservation mandates will likely continue through October. An executive order issued by Gov. Jerry Brown in November required the Water Board to prepare plans for extending the original mandate, which ends in February.

Staff for the Water Boards have posted the framework for such a proposal. It includes some allowances for water districts in warmer parts of the state and ones that have seen population growth. The public comment period for the proposed framework ends Wednesday.

Water, water everywhere

The vast majority of the rain that has fallen on Southern California this week will end up in the ocean. The Council for Watershed Health estimates that for every inch of rain that falls on the region, 10 billion gallons of water rush uncaptured to the sea.

A portion of the water that has fallen on the region has been captured. Steven Frasher, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, said his agency had captured about 400 million gallons of storm water in a 24-hour period ending Tuesday. In 2015, it harvested about 13 billion gallons, enough to supply 320,000 people for a year. That water will be used to recharge groundwater basins. 

Homeowners will also take in more of the water than in years past. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers $100 rebates for rain barrels and $400 rebates for cisterns. Michelle Figueroa, a spokeswoman for LADWP, said more than 1600 rebates for rain barrels were issued last fiscal year and that the department is on track to double that number this year.

Besides that, she urged homeowners to conserve water by shutting off sprinklers, saying watering shouldn’t be necessary for at least 10 days after a downpour of this magnitude.