California misses water savings target for 3rd straight month

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See how each supplier did in December »

Efforts to save water in the face of an ongoing drought appear to be stalling.

New data from state officials show California’s water savings dropped to just 18.3 percent in December — down from 20.4 percent in November and 22.4 percent in October.

The reduction percentages are compared to the same months in 2013.

Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board were quick to point out that California is still on track to hit Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for statewide savings of 25 percent by the end of this month. But cumulative savings since June have been dropping steadily since peaking at nearly 30 percent in July.

A slide from California Water Boards shows the decline in cumulative water savings from July to December.
A slide from California Water Boards shows the decline in cumulative water savings from July to December. State Water Resources Control Board

December’s cumulative total of 25.5 percent doesn’t leave much room for more back-sliding if the state is to hit the governor’s goal.

The governor's target equates to 1.2 million acre-feet in savings through February. The state has so far saved 1.1 million acre-feet. 

That means California needs to save an additional 100,000 acre-feet of water by the February deadline. December's savings equaled a little less than 76,000 acre-feet.

But December was also the worst month for compliance so far, with 40 percent of water suppliers failing to meet their conservation standards.

Per person, Californians saved about 67 gallons a day, the second-lowest rate since reporting was required, according to water board.

Savings in Southern California were a mixed bag, with some districts hitting their goal and many falling short.
 
In December, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was a little over 2 percentage points behind its goal of reducing overall water use by 16 percent. Still, thanks to significant past savings, the district is still on track to meet its larger target.
 
Meanwhile, the City of Beverly Hills was nearly 20 percentage points behind its goal of cutting use by 32 percent; the City of Riverside was 11 percentage points shy of its 28 percent reduction goal. Both are facing the prospect of failing to meet their overall state water reduction target by the end of February when the final tally is due.
 
Ventura's water district was less than one point away in December from hitting its goal of 16 percent savings. Overall though, the district has saved nearly twice the amount of water asked of it by the state water board.
 
Another standout star in December was Simi Valley, which saved 3 percentage points more than it needed to and is almost ten percentage points above its overall goal of cutting water use by 24 percent as compared to what it used in 2013.
 
Max Gomberg with the water board says it's possible the state will meet its overall goal of 25 percent water savings by the end of February, but January and February numbers will need to show strong conservation.
 
"We need 22 percent savings over both months in order to make the 25 percent cumulative goal," he told KPCC.

This story has been updated.

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