July marks the first full month that new conservation rules like a ban on watering decorative grass were in effect, which state water officials said helped make a difference.
Californians stepped up their water conservation in July, using 10.4% less than two years ago as the state struggles with a years-long drought, state water officials said Wednesday.
July marks the first full month that new conservation rules like a ban on watering decorative grass were in effect, which state water officials said helped make a difference. Water use started to trend down in June after a bump in April and May.
Still, conservation over the past year is still far below the 15% drop Gov. Gavin Newsom requested in summer 2021 as the state fought to maintain critical water supplies in anticipation of a drier year ahead. Statewide, water use is down since then by just 3.4% compared with 2020, the year Newsom is measuring against.
The State Water Resources Control Board reported the monthly numbers, based on data from urban water suppliers.
“Last summer the savings numbers were slow to ramp up because the governor’s call had just gone into effect. But the most recent numbers show how far we’ve come,” said Marielle Rhodeiro, a research data specialist with the board. “We can see some achievements — quite heartening.”
Much of California remains gripped by a severe drought, with many counties throughout the hot, dry Central Valley in exceptional drought, the highest category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Meanwhile, the board’s monthly report came as a heat wave that has lasted longer than a week blankets the state, forcing unprecedented power demands. It’s not yet clear how the abnormally hot September temperatures will change water use for the month.
Residents on average used 104 gallons per day in July, 12 gallons per day less than a year ago. It was the lowest July water use since mandatory restrictions in July 2015, when usage dropped to 98 gallons per person per day.
“What a ride it’s been,” said the board’s chairman, E. Joaquin Esquivel.
“We know that we need to keep the momentum going,” he added later, warning that the state seems likely to face another winter with below-average precipitation.
Three of the state’s 10 water regions exceeded 15% savings, Rhodeiro said, with the North Coast region “completely blowing it out of the water” with 28.5% less water usage over 2020. The San Francisco Bay region used 17.3% less, and the South Lahontan region that includes numerous mountain ranges used about 16% less.
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