Local

Valley cities still saving water, but state conservation falls

Marvita Gowdy of Fresno’s Water Division promotes conservation in an eye-catching Prius with a cheerful “Molly Meter” water-saving mascot painted on the side.
Marvita Gowdy of Fresno’s Water Division promotes conservation in an eye-catching Prius with a cheerful “Molly Meter” water-saving mascot painted on the side. jwalker@fresnobee.com

Fresno and other cities in the central San Joaquin Valley conserved water in June, but California’s largest cities dragged the state’s annual water-conservation numbers down by more than 5 percent.

According to numbers released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board, Fresno’s water use in June fell by 29 percent compared with the June 2013 total (the state uses 2013 as the baseline). The other Valley cities to show drops in consumption were: Clovis, 24 percent; Visalia, 23 percent; Hanford, 22 percent; Madera, 23 percent and Tulare, 19 percent.

However, statewide conservation in June fell from 27 percent in June 2015 to less than 22 percent this year. Low savings numbers from big-city suppliers such as Los Angeles (14 percent), San Diego (20 percent) and the East Bay Municipal Utilities District in the Bay Area (18 percent) contributed to poorer conservation.

In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown imposed a statewide 25 percent reduction. Fresno was expected to cut 28 percent of its water usage, and it saved 30 percent. The rest of the Valley had mixed results, with Hanford cutting only 10 percent and Clovis saving 33 percent.

The statewide mandate was lifted in May, which followed a winter of average precipitation that lessened – but certainly didn’t end – the state’s water woes.

Typically, water use increases when temperatures go up with summer. June 2015 was the hottest Fresno June on record, with an average temperature of 81.9 degrees. This year’s June average was a full degree cooler, but it was still nearly four degrees above the historical average. However, Fresno used more water in June 2016 than in the same month in 2015.

The June savings statewide were “not as much as we hoped for, but not as low as we feared,” said board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus after the results were announced.

This year, the state board voted to allow water agencies to propose their own conservation standards, based on the health of their water supplies and projected demand. Many water agencies told the state board they didn’t see any need to impose mandatory percentage-based cuts this year because of their plentiful supplies.

About 50 of the state’s 400 largest water districts saw use increase by more than 20 percent from June 2015 to June 2016, according to a Sacramento Bee review of state figures. Almost half of those 50 districts were in the Sacramento River hydrological area.

Marcus urged Californians to keep saving even though standards have been lifted. In a press release, the water board said it “is prepared to come back in early 2017 to reimpose new mandatory water restrictions if needed.”

“It’s hard to draw sweeping conclusions,” Marcus added.

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

  Comments