Environment & Science

California water use drops in November, but experts say it's not enough

A sprinkler sprays water on a lawn at Golden Gate Park on January 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
A sprinkler sprays water on a lawn at Golden Gate Park on January 29, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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California cities reduced their water use by just under 10 percent in November from a year ago, but state water officials say that’s still not enough to make a dent in the state's ongoing water shortage.

Still, the savings were better than in October when cities posted a water conservation rate of 6.8 percent compared to the previous year. But the November figures are still down from a peak in August when cities used 11.5 percent less water than the prior year.

Since June, California cities have saved more than 100 billion gallons of water in response to mandatory outdoor watering restrictions state officials called for in July. The savings is enough to provide annual drinking water for more than 1.3 million Californians.

“In many parts of California, it is clear that residents understand we are in a prolonged drought. And many continue to conserve water, even as we enjoy welcome rain and runoff that is beginning to recharge our reservoirs and groundwater supplies,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “That is good news because it will take far more rain and snow to get us back to normal.  Conservation is still the smartest and most cost effective way to deal with this difficult drought.  We need to treat water as the precious resource that it is.”

In its monthly water use report released Tuesday, the California Water Resources Control Board said 93 percent off all urban water providers have implemented mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use. Those measures include prohibitions against watering on consecutive days, hosing down driveways and allowing runoff to flow down the street.

As in months past, the state’s South Coast region – which includes much of Southern California along with coastal San Diego County – had the highest urban water use in November at more than 80 billion gallons. The South Coast region is the most populous area of the state. It used 3.2 percent less water in November than the previous year.

In Southern California, November water use decreased in some cities and grew in others. Santa Barbara saw a drop of more than 20 percent, while Riverside edged up 2 percent.

Water officials caution that it’s not appropriate to compare cities and regions with different water use factors such average rainfall, temperature, lot size and population growth.

The chart below shows per capita water use in November for select cities in Southern California compared to a year earlier:

Residential Gallons Per Capita Day for November

State officials say about half of household water use is for outdoor purposes. They say 55 gallons per person per day is an appropriate amount for indoor use.