California residents reduced water consumption by 31 percent in July, the largest savings in one month since the state began tracking urban water use more than a year ago, state officials announced Thursday.
The level of water conservation exceeded the governor’s 25 percent mandate for the third month in a row, resulting in a combined statewide savings of 30 percent for June and July as compared to the same months in 2013.
“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear and shows that they get that we are in the drought of our lives. This isn’t your mother’s drought or our grandmother’s drought, this is the drought of the century,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.
Savings in July equaled 228,940 acre-feet of water or about 74.6 billion gallons; the cumulative amount saved for June and July equaled 414,800 acre-feet, or 35 percent of the savings goal of 1.2 million acre-feet by February 2016, the state board reported.
Southern California scored a record-high 28 percent savings in July, surpassing its previous monthly high of 26 percent in May as compared to same-months in 2013.
“We’ve got a lot of people hitting home runs,” Marcus said. Simi Valley reached 40 percent conservation in July, reducing its average residential gallons per capita per day (R-GPCD) to 85 gallons. Los Angeles saved 21 percent, dropping R-GPCD to 113 gallons for the fiscal year ending June 30 from 131 in fiscal year 2014, said the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Valencia Water Company in the Santa Clarita Valley saved 40 percent. El Monte, which increased usage in June, showed a 29 percent savings in July, with a low, 51 R-GPCD. Statewide, the average R-GPCD was 98 for July, down from 133 in July 2014.
“We are really proud of our residents and businesses for working so hard to reduce water consumption,” said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero.
July 2015 savings were helped along by scattered rain showers in many parts of the state, causing residents to turn off outdoor sprinklers, officials said.
Also, the savings may have been boosted by temporary water surcharges inserted into residential water bills for overusers, said Cris Carrigan, the state water board’s chief of enforcement. He predicted continued savings as more water users open their bills in August and September.
“We still haven’t hit that tipping point or that point of equilibrium yet. There is still some savings to be gained,” he said.
Still, state officials say most of the savings comes from allowing lawns to turn “California golden,” said Marcus, since outdoor watering accounts for at least 50 percent of residential consumption. Come winter, percentages will drop because there’s less outdoor watering.
The state board may consider adjusting its emergency regulations if the expected El Niño brings welcome rainfall and snow to California this winter.
“We need to hope for as much rain as we can safely handle,” Marcus said. “But to quote Yogi Berra, ‘it ain’t over until it’s over.”
The first-ever state-mandated water-reduction ordinance began June 1 and runs through Feb. 29, 2016, putting cities and urban water agencies on a nine-month water diet requiring between 8 percent and 36 percent conservation.
The ordinance adopted May 5 by the board implements the governor’s emergency order of April 1 requiring an aggregate, 25 percent reduction statewide from 411 urban water suppliers. Agencies that do not meet targets can be fined, from $500 a day to $10,000 a day. However, Carrigan said no fines have been issued.
In July, only four suppliers received notices of noncompliance for missing the mark by more than 15 percent — a 75 percent drop in scofflaws from the previous month. Those four are: Livingston, Hanford, Blythe and the Phelan/Pinion Hills Community Service District in the high desert, Carrigan said. In addition, nine agencies will receive conservation orders, asking for more measures such as limiting outdoor watering days and additional enforcement.
Last month, 290 water suppliers serving almost 30 million Californians met or exceeded conservation standards, an increase of 25 since June, while 98 surpassed conservation targets by 10 percent, and 67 by 15 percent or more, the board reported.