Residents of drought-stricken California used 20 percent less water in November, falling short of the governor’s 25 percent conservation mandate for a second straight month, officials reported Tuesday.
Despite missing the mandate, California remains on course to beat its long-term goal through February, said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board.
Residents have saved a combined 26 percent since the cutbacks began in June, she said at a meeting in Sacramento.
The tally came as a series of much-anticipated El Niño storms began to drench the state and boost the already high snowpack.
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Officials had expected less water to be saved during the winter, when residents already typically reduce watering their lawns and other landscaping, Marcus said.
Still, the latest numbers reflect considerable savings over past years, Marcus said, adding that residents understand it’s too early to declare an end to the four-year drought.
Most strikingly, average monthly water use declined from 87 gallons for each person in October to 75 gallons in November, hitting the lowest level since the curtailments began, officials reported.
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the 25 percent cutback in June compared with the same period in 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.
The mandated 25 percent cutback is for urban water use and for what is called potable – or drinkable – water. The state imposed varying reductions among cities to achieve the overall reduction of 25 percent. The varying reductions are based on past water use. Many Northern San Joaquin Valley cities have been mandated to reduce water use from 28 percent to 36 percent.
Riverbank continues to lag among Stanislaus County cities. Riverbank is mandated to reduce its water use by 32 percent but has reduced water use by 12.7 percent since June, according to the state. Riverbank reduced its water use by 1.3 percent in November.
But city officials have said they are working with the state to improve Riverbank’s water conservation. The city has banned outdoor watering except for once a week and by hand. City Manager Jill Anderson recently urged residents in a Modesto Bee letter to the editor to reduce their water use. She wrote that the city faces significant fines by the state if it does not meet its mandated reduction.
Conservation efforts statewide hit a setback in October when Californians missed the mandated target, posting 22 percent in savings.
Regulators renewed their appeal for conservation, even with the coming storms and as a recent Sierra Nevada snowpack survey showed water content was far higher than normal for this time of year. “We’re in such a deep hole,” Marcus said. “We need to have a lot of water in storage and snow in the mountains to let us relax at all.”
The state regulations calling for the 25 percent reduction are set to expire in mid-February. But state regulators are working on new regulations that could replace them. The state water board is expected to consider the new regulations Feb. 2. Brown has called for extending the 25 percent reduction through October if the drought continues through January.
Modesto Utilities Director Larry Parlin said the state is considering easing up slightly on reductions for the Central Valley because of its hot climate. He said for Modesto that could mean having to reduce its water use by 33 percent versus the current 36 percent. He said even when the drought ends, Californians should expect continued reductions in their water use, though not as steep as the current ones.
Modesto Bee reporter Kevin Valine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Water savings for Stanislaus County cities
The reductions are based on comparing water use in one month with the same month in 2013.
Source: State Water Resources Control Board