Environment & Science

SoCal saved a record amount of water last year thanks to torn-out lawns

Sprinklers water a patch of grass on the sidewalk in front of a house in Alhambra, California, on July 25, 2014.
Sprinklers water a patch of grass on the sidewalk in front of a house in Alhambra, California, on July 25, 2014.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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Semi-arid Southern California's residents saved a record amount of water last year, more than 1 million acre feet, according to the Metropolitan Water District, the region's biggest water wholesaler.

That’s a year’s supply for two million households.

MWD's report says most of the water savings were accomplished through using less outdoors, as drought-tolerant landscaping replaced turf lawns, and smart timers controlled sprinklers to not overwater. Our low-flow toilets and super-efficient washing machines saved water indoors. The agency spent about $45 million in 2017 on rebates, education programs and ads to encourage conservation.

MWD has spent $1.4 billion since 1991 on programs to conserve water, to recycle wastewater and clean tainted groundwater. All those tactics contributed to the total amount of water saved in 2017.
 
The stormwater from last winter's big rains also helped to reduce demand for MWD's imported water, spokesman Bob Muir said. Other agencies capture the stormwater and use it to replenish groundwater basins, he said.

Looking ahead to this year, conservation will still be important. The mostly dry winter has given us a Sierra snowpack that's just 30 percent of average for this time of year.

Southern Californians used about 205 gallons of water each day in 1991, Muir said. Today, usage is down to less than 130 gallons per person per day.