Environment & Science

California water board fears conservation efforts have been abandoned

In this Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 file photo, people walk along a path of yellowing grass at West Haven Park in Garden Grove, Calif. Regulators say water conservation continues to slip in drought-stricken California after officials lifted mandatory cutbacks.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 file photo, people walk along a path of yellowing grass at West Haven Park in Garden Grove, Calif. Regulators say water conservation continues to slip in drought-stricken California after officials lifted mandatory cutbacks.
Amy Taxin/AP

Listen to story

00:50
Download this story 0.0MB

State regulators said Wednesday they fear some water districts in drought-stricken California have abandoned conservation efforts as saving dropped off significantly.

Californians saved less than 18 percent in August, down by nearly 10 percent from a year earlier, the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento reported. The figures are compared to the same period in 2013, a year before a drought emergency was declared in the state.

"We're at yellow alert," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the board, expressing alarm at the numbers and wanting to know what's going on with increased use. "I'm not ready to go to red alert until we figure it out."

Last winter, a near-average amount of rain and snow fell mostly in Northern California, prompting officials to relax conservation efforts by turning over control to local water districts.

Some of the communities with the least savings include Malibu in Southern California and in Northern California Folsom and South Tahoe.

Each district is responsible for telling its residents how much — or whether — they should cutback based on an analysis of their projected water supply and demanded for the next three years.

After calling for voluntary cutbacks, Gov. Jerry Brown at the height of drought last year, ordered residents to cutback by 25 percent.

Californians' water conservation remained steady at 20 percent in July, just one percentage point below June's savings of 21 percent, officials reported. The figures are compared to the same period in 2013, a year before a drought emergency was declared in the state.

Some communities are doing a good job of conserving, but some aren't, said Max Gomberg, a senior climate scientist for the state water board, adding that in January regulators will consider returning to state-mandated water restrictions.