Northern California surpasses Southland in water conservation as savings grow statewide

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New data suggests Californians are steadily reducing water consumption in the face of severe drought, even though cities and towns in the northern part of the state are cutting back more than those in the thirsty and more populous south.

Water use in cities and towns across the state fell 7.6% in June compared to the same month in 2020 — significantly less than Gov’s voluntary 15% target. Gavin Newsom last year, but a significant shift from the previous month, according to data released by the State Water Resources Control Board. In May, statewide savings were just 3.1%.

Water officials called the reductions “encouraging,” especially as the savings were realized in the middle of the summer.

“We’re all essentially moving in the same direction, and that helps,” said Brad Coffey, water resource manager for the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California. “We’re encouraged by the direction things are going, but we think more can be done.”

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The June numbers are the first sign of progress in state conservation efforts since Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District declared a water shortage emergency in April and placed historic restrictions on watering the following month.

Residents of the South Coast Hydrologic Region have reduced water consumption by 5.9% compared to the same month in 2020 – more than double the region’s 2.2% savings in May. The region includes Los Angeles and San Diego and comprises more than half of the state’s population.

Although conservation numbers on the south coast were well below Newsom’s target, Coffey said the difference compared to 2020 was significant because water use in 2020 followed a particularly wet season, meaning water use may not have been as high as in other periods. .

Achieving 15% conservation for the region could be a particularly daunting task, Coffey said, referring to it as a “stretcher target.” Per capita water consumption in Southern California is already about 40% lower than it was in the 1990s, he said.

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“You can imagine that a lot of the low-hanging fruit has already been done,” he said. “It gets harder to reduce the more efficient you are.”

Still, he said June’s conservation numbers showed the right momentum and the agency could eventually meet the governor’s goal.

“We’re building momentum,” he said. “We think it’s feasible, but we all have to go in the same direction.”

The hydrological region that saved the most water in the state was the San Francisco Bay Area, which reduced urban water use by 12.6% in June. The Bay Area was followed by the North Coast Hydrologic Region, which reduced usage by 10.3%

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Fueled by climate change and high temperatures, the drought has placed most of the state’s reservoirs below the historic average.

On June 1, the Metropolitan Water District imposed restrictions on the open watering of areas in Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties that rely on supplies from the State Water Project — a network of reservoirs and channels that transport water from Northern California to lead south.

The agency had never imposed such widespread restrictions before, and officials warned that more restrictions could be imposed if residents did not significantly reduce use.

The measures, MWD officials have said, are tough but necessary to ensure the health and safety of Californians.

Lake Shasta is currently located at 1.7 million acre feet, or about 54% of the historical average storage. Lake Oroville is only 62% of the historical average at 1.5 million acre feet.