Statewide water conservation fell short in February as much of California had warmer weather and less rain during a critical period in the water year.
There was a 12 percent reduction in water consumption, well below Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate of 25 percent.
Most communities in the central San Joaquin Valley didn’t meet the conservation standards. As the nine-month period ended, only Kingsburg, Selma and Merced reached the targets set by the state beginning in June.
February was the final month of Brown’s executive order for the state to reduce 25 percent of urban water use compared with 2013. For the period of the executive order, which started in June, urban users reduced water use 23.9 percent.
The Valley only got a fraction of normal rainfall in February. Fresno had 0.33 inches, about 16.3 percent of the normal 2.03 inches that falls in that month, the National Weather Service said. By comparison, Madera had only 2.8 percent of normal and Hanford 1.4 percent of normal in February.
Valley temperatures were up to four degrees above normal in February, according to National Weather Service records.
March temperatures normalized to about two degrees above normal and rainfall was 2.93 inches, about 44 percent above normal.
February’s statistics were released by the state Water Resources Control Board on Monday.
Kings of conservation
Kingsburg, which had the highest savings in the central San Joaquin Valley, was one of 10 cities in the state that managed to exceed the 36 percent conservation standard.
City Manager Alex Henderson credited residents for conservation and the City Council for buying and installing water meters in 2014.
About half the homes in the city had meters installed. Once they began operating, residents gained an awareness of the amount of water they used, he said.
City officials also met with landscapers and the largest water users, and fined for overwatering. A portion of those fines was used to pay for water timers that were given away free to homeowners who didn’t have them.
“There were incentives for everyone to reduce and if the community met the mandate, we will fine no one,” Henderson said.
Lowering the conservation bar
Under new state rules, cities can apply for lower conservation standards based on their climate, population growth and the amount of water that is recycled into drinkable water.
Revised conservation standards will be announced later this week, Max Gomberg, a climate and conservation manager for the state Water Board, said Monday in a statewide teleconference.
He said that March compliance figures will look better because many conservation standards will be reduced.
The state allows up to an 8 percent reduction from current targets. Valley cities likely will get a 2 percent break for climate while Clovis is seeking an additional 2 percent reduction for population growth since it has been among the state’s faster-growing cities since 2013.
The city’s standard is 36 percent. The city has reduced its overall water consumption by 29.7 percent.
Clovis also has recycled water but that water is not returned as a potable source. The city uses a purple pipe for water that is piped from its water-recycling plant near McCall and Ashlan avenues to city parks and landscaped areas on the east side of Clovis. It also is used by Clovis Community Medical Center and Caltrans.
Clovis also participates in a water-banking program, but state officials don’t include that for credits toward the conservation standard.
The city plans to pipe water from the recycling plant to its water basins for recharge into the groundwater and its well system, said Luke Serpa, Clovis public utilities director.
Fresno officials also are considering a similar recharge program, city spokesman Mark Standriff said.
Fresno residents saved 25.8 percent through February. Fresno has a 28 percent conservation standard from the state and also is seeking a reduction from the state to 26 percent or less, he said.
Valley water savings
Most Valley water agencies that reported conservation data to the state missed their cumulative target, according to figures released Monday.
Cumulative savings (June 2015-Feb. 2016 vs. 2013)
Monthly pct. saved
Bakman Water Co.
Pinedale Co. Water Dist.
Source: State Water Resources Control Board