Californians fall just short of goal (April 5, 2016)

Local standards reduced after mandate extended to October

SACRAMENTO — Californians fell just short of the state’s cumulative water savings goal after nine months of mandatory conservation that resulted in 1.19 million acre-feet of water saved between June of last year and February, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 1, 2015, executive order called for a 25-percent reduction in water consumption across the Golden State compared to 2013 usage, and the SWRCB reported Monday that Californians reduced water by 23.9 percent during the nine-month mandatory reporting period.

And while the state just missed the cumulative, 1.24-million-acre-feet goal, state officials said enough water was saved to supply nearly 6 million Californians — 15 percent of the state’s population — for one year.

SWRCB Chair Felicia Marcus said the nearly 24 percent in savings showcases the enormous effort of California citizens.

Californians rose to the occasion, Marcus said in a statement, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways.

Statewide, however, the conservation rate was just 12 percent in February, and officials attributed the decline to one of the warmest and driest Februaries since the drought began.

Locally, Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley mirrored the statewide trend, falling less than 2 percentage points short of its cumulative goal of 28 percent. In addition, residents in Oak Hills, Victorville, Spring Valley Lake, and Barstow all reduced consumption near their respective cumulative goals.

A lack of savings through the winter months, which is historically when significant reductions are most difficult to achieve, resulted in all local water providers falling short of their cumulative goals, with Hesperia missing its target by the widest margin; that city’s goal was 32 percent, but residents mustered just 18.1 percent in savings during the nine-month period.

Residents in Adelanto managed a staggering 41.5 percent reduction in February; however, that number wasn’t enough to push that city over its 20-percent cumulative goal, data showed. Cumulatively, Adelanto reduced water use by 15.9 percent throughout the reporting period.

Like Adelanto’s, residents in Oak Hills exceeded their monthly goal in February and conserved more than 31 percent of water compared to the county service area’s 28-percent cumulative goal.

In November, Gov. Brown signed another executive order that extended emergency conservation regulations through October, and amid the continuation of the statewide conservation mandate, the SWRCB reevaluated its conservation requirements, which resulted in a lowering of conservation goals for all local water providers.

Liberty’s goal was reduced to 24 percent, and General Manager Tony Penna told the Daily Press on Monday the lowered standards more accurately reflects what the company’s customers should be expected to conserve during California’s longstanding drought.

Penna said the SWRCB didn’t have the luxury early on of including factors like climate and larger lot sizes in the High Desert when issuing individual conservation goals, but added that the new standard is a more realistic expectation.

We do believe 24 percent is more in keeping with what our customers can and will continue to conserve, Penna said.

The Phelan Pinon Hills Community Services District saw the largest reduction in the region, as the SWRCB lowered the district’s standard from 32 to 24 percent for the next conservation period, according to a statement released by the district.

According to the statement, the reduction will help many customers in Phelan and Pinon Hills avoid fines altogether and will help reduce the fine amount for many others.

The district’s staff and Board of Directors vowed to continue to appeal to the SWRCB in the hopes of achieving an even greater conservation percentage reduction, the statement showed.

Source: Daily Press