Water conservation fell off in California in August, the state reported Wednesday, including in Valley communities where many larger agencies have chosen to enforce conservation as much as they did last year.
The state reported a 17.7 percent reduction in water use compared with August 2013, but well short of last year’s 27 percent reduction for the same month.
As of June, the state allowed suppliers to “self-certify,” meaning they can set their conservation rates. Most set the rates at 0 percent, but still continue to emphasize conservation.
Since June 2015, California residents have saved 2 million acre-feet of water, a 23.3 percent cut compared with the same months in the base year of 2013.
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Conservation declines “raised questions, and we are examining the data to understand why some areas slipped more than others,” said Felicia Marcus, the state Water Board chairwoman.
Many communities continued conserving significant amounts of water, she said, “while others have slipped more than seems prudent.”
The city of Fresno saved 18.7 percent compared with August 2013 and overall has cut water usage by 23.4 percent since June 2015, when conservation rules first went into effect. Last August, the city conserved 27.5 percent when compared with 2013. Last year, Fresno was required to cut 28 percent of its consumption from water use in 2013. Residents were fined for over-consuming or not complying with other watering rules.
Clovis saved 16.9 percent compared with August 2013 and has reduced water consumption by 20.1 percent since June 2015. Last August, the city conserved 32.5 percent. At the time, the state had rules in place that required the city to cut 36 percent, and residents were fined if they didn’t meet the water savings threshold.
Both Clovis and Fresno self-certify. Under the self-certification rules, the state continues to monitor conservation, but suppliers can list their conservation mandate as low as 0 percent.
We are not asking suppliers to conserve at the same level, but don’t do things that will drop you down to zero.
Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager, state Water Board
When suppliers opted to self-certify, they were told they needed to have three years of water supplies available if conditions similar to the prior three years occurred.
“It’s expected that we are not going to do as well as last year because last year was a dire emergency,” said Lisa Koehn, Clovis assistant public utilities director. “I’m pleased we still got that amount of conservation.”
Water officials say the best conservation months are during spring and summer when more water is consumed for landscaping and other outdoor purposes.
Of suppliers that didn’t self-certify, the city of Sanger didn’t meet the conservation standard of 26 percent for August. The city consumed 17.2 percent less than August 2013, but in August 2015 the city conserved 38 percent less.
Bakman Water Co. in Fresno, which also didn’t self-certify, exceeded its conservation standard of 34 percent. Bakman’s residents consumed 35.9 percent less than 2013. Last August, Bakman reduced water use by 36.1 percent compared with August 2013.
The state is monitoring suppliers that have self-certified, especially those that are at 0 percent after their certifications, which include Fresno, Clovis and Visalia.
Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager for the state Water Board, said state officials are most concerned about cities that were in the highest conservation ranges – above 30 percent – that are now conserving in the single digits and had self-certified at 0 percent.
“For a water supplier that was in the 32 percent to 36 percent category, dropping below 20 percent is a little concerning,” he said. “The ones we will make the phone call for are those that have dropped into the single digits.”
In the Central Valley, there were no self-certified suppliers who fell into single digits, according to the state’s supplier conservation document released Wednesday.
“We are still under a drought emergency as declared by the governor,” Gomberg said.
That drought gives Gov. Jerry Brown vast emergency powers.
“If we have to come back in January or February and reinstate a 25 percent or 20 percent (conservation requirement), we are going to be right back where we were before,” Gomberg said. “We are not asking suppliers to conserve at the same level, but don’t do things that will drop you down to zero.”
In a separate water development on Wednesday, Friant Division water contractors filed a damages claim against the federal Bureau of Reclamation for reducing water supplies to them and their customers in 2014.
The claim was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.
Valley water savings in August
savings vs 2013
Aug. 2015 savings
Bakman Water Co.
Pinedale Co. Water Dist.
Source: State Water Resources Control Board