Californians posted a 22 percent savings in water use in October, marking the first month residents have missed the state’s mandatory 25 percent conservation target since enforcement of the cutbacks began in June, officials said Tuesday.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, said she had anticipated the dip in savings because October temperatures were exceptionally warm, driving up the watering of yards. Still, Marcus said, California is meeting its long-term water conservation target. For the five months combined, residents have saved 27 percent.
October also was a tough month for some Stanislaus County cities.
Modesto, Oakdale, Turlock and Riverbank missed their water-savings mandates, but Patterson and Ceres exceeded theirs.
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Though the state has called for a 25 percent overall reduction in urban water use, it is achieving that by mandating varying reductions among cities based on their previous water consumption. Many Northern San Joaquin Valley cities are required to reduce their water use 28 to 36 percent.
Three Stanislaus cities said their water savings went up in November as the weather cooled.
Turlock said preliminary numbers show a 29 percent savings in November compared with October’s 20 percent savings. Ceres said its preliminary numbers show a 31 percent reduction in November versus 29 percent in October. And Modesto reported November water savings of 32.1 percent versus October’s 23.9 percent.
Riverbank lags behind its neighboring cities. The water board reported Riverbank reduced its water use 6.2 percent in October and has reduced its water use 13.8 percent since June, far below its mandated reduction of 32 percent.
Public Works Superintendent Michael Riddell said residents have not taken to heart the need to save water despite Riverbank’s public education campaign and enforcement measures, which include issuing nearly 1,300 violations since June. He said Riverbank has meet with water board officials on how the city can save more water.
He said a big part of that will be a roughly $4 million project to replace water meters with software and computer equipment that will allow the city to track individual water use. He said staff is expected to ask the City Council this month to approve the financing for the project and that the project could go online in spring or summer. He said these upgrades will allow water customers to use a smartphone app to track their water use.
Riverbank also recently limited outdoor watering to one day a week and only by hand.
The mandate to conserve came as California experiences its driest four-year span on record. Gov. Jerry Brown called for the 25 percent reduction in urban water use compared with the same period of 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency. The reduction is for potable – or drinkable – water.
“I think people have gotten the message,” Marcus said.
The state has reported that California is more than halfway toward its conservation goal for the period ending in February. Statewide cutbacks amounted to 26 percent in September, 27 percent in August, 31 percent in July and 27 percent in June.
Brown, uncertain if drought-busting storms are coming this winter, recently extended his executive order preparing the state for a fifth year of drought. It allows emergency conservation to continue through October 2016 if dry conditions persist in January.
He took the action despite forecasters predicting a strong El Niño, an ocean-warming phenomenon that can change weather patterns globally and increase chances of heavy rain and snow pelting California.
Below-average rain and snowfall have fallen on the northern Sierra Nevada, while the central Sierra has received above-average precipitation, said Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. It is too early to know what the wet season will ultimately deliver, he said.
“Every El Niño can be a little different,” Shoemaker said. “There is a long way to go in this season.”
The Associated Press and Modesto Bee reporter Kevin Valine contributed to this report.
City —— Mandated Reduction —— June-October Reduction —— October Reduction
Patterson —— 28% ——31.3% —— 44.4%
Ceres —— 28% —— 25.2% —— 29%
Modesto —— 36% —— 29.1% —— 23.9%
Turlock —— 32% —— 26% —— 20%
Oakdale —— 32% —— 38.2% —— 23%
Riverbank —— 32% —— 13.8% —— 6.2%
Source: State Water Resources Control Board