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How bad is water use in California? March is the worst so far, up 19%

A fire hose is used to water a lawn in Palo Alto using recycled water from the city's water treatment plant. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Californians emerged from the driest January, February and March on record with the biggest jump in water use since the drought began: a nearly 19% increase in March compared to two years earlier.

Despite the urgent pleas of water officials, California's water use in March is the highest since 2015, standing in stark contrast to February, when residents and businesses used virtually the same amount of water in cities and towns as two years ago.

The massive increase shrank conservation gains since last summer, according to data released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board: During the period from last July through March, Californians used 3.7% less water than during the same stretch in 2020.

The latest data is a rebuke of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's request last July that Californians voluntarily cut back their water use by 15%. At the end of March, he ordered water systems to step up their drought responses statewide, but left the details to the locals.

The largest increases, nearly 27%, came in the Los Angeles basin and San Diego County, as well as the desert regions of southeast California that include Palm Springs and the Imperial Valley. Residents and businesses in southern Sierra Nevada communities used about 23% more water than in 2020, and the Central Coast followed close behind with a 20% rise. The only savings came in the North Coast region, which used 4.3% less water. Even the San Francisco Bay Area had a 2.5% increase.

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While the data reflects water used by residents and industries statewide, it does not include agriculture, which accounts for roughly 40% of the total water used in the state.

The record dry spell came during what should have been some of the wettest months of the year, so residents resorted to more watering of their lawns and gardens, which soak up about half of the water used in cities and towns.

Beginning next month, about 6 million Southern Californians who are reliant on the state's parched aqueduct and reservoirs will face unprecedented water restrictions from the Metropolitan Water District. The agencies and cities that provide their water must limit residents to outdoor watering once a week or reduce total water use below a certain target under a mandate issued by the Metropolitan Water District last month.

In response, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Tuesday announced that all of its nearly 4 million customers will be limited to watering twice a week beginning June 1.

By March, some residents already faced aggressive drought rules from their water suppliers — with mixed results.

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After San Jose residents failed to meet voluntary conservation targets, those who exceed mandatory limits now face surcharges.

In Southern California, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves wealthy enclaves west of Los Angeles, found that water use steadily increased despite restrictions, with about half of residents regularly exceeding their water budgets, said spokesperson Michael McNutt.

At the end of May, the state water board will consider rules to ban irrigation of non-functional, decorative turf at businesses and other institutions. It will also vote on regulations implementing Newsom's executive order requiring water systems to escalate their drought responses. Nearly 230 water systems have yet to reach the level of drought response the governor ordered, according to state data released Tuesday.

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How bad is water use in California? March is the worst so far, up 19%

by Rachel Becker / CalMatters

Uploaded: Wed, May 11, 2022, 9:01 am

Californians emerged from the driest January, February and March on record with the biggest jump in water use since the drought began: a nearly 19% increase in March compared to two years earlier.

Despite the urgent pleas of water officials, California's water use in March is the highest since 2015, standing in stark contrast to February, when residents and businesses used virtually the same amount of water in cities and towns as two years ago.

The massive increase shrank conservation gains since last summer, according to data released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board: During the period from last July through March, Californians used 3.7% less water than during the same stretch in 2020.

The latest data is a rebuke of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's request last July that Californians voluntarily cut back their water use by 15%. At the end of March, he ordered water systems to step up their drought responses statewide, but left the details to the locals.

The largest increases, nearly 27%, came in the Los Angeles basin and San Diego County, as well as the desert regions of southeast California that include Palm Springs and the Imperial Valley. Residents and businesses in southern Sierra Nevada communities used about 23% more water than in 2020, and the Central Coast followed close behind with a 20% rise. The only savings came in the North Coast region, which used 4.3% less water. Even the San Francisco Bay Area had a 2.5% increase.

While the data reflects water used by residents and industries statewide, it does not include agriculture, which accounts for roughly 40% of the total water used in the state.

The record dry spell came during what should have been some of the wettest months of the year, so residents resorted to more watering of their lawns and gardens, which soak up about half of the water used in cities and towns.

Beginning next month, about 6 million Southern Californians who are reliant on the state's parched aqueduct and reservoirs will face unprecedented water restrictions from the Metropolitan Water District. The agencies and cities that provide their water must limit residents to outdoor watering once a week or reduce total water use below a certain target under a mandate issued by the Metropolitan Water District last month.

In response, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Tuesday announced that all of its nearly 4 million customers will be limited to watering twice a week beginning June 1.

By March, some residents already faced aggressive drought rules from their water suppliers — with mixed results.

After San Jose residents failed to meet voluntary conservation targets, those who exceed mandatory limits now face surcharges.

In Southern California, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves wealthy enclaves west of Los Angeles, found that water use steadily increased despite restrictions, with about half of residents regularly exceeding their water budgets, said spokesperson Michael McNutt.

At the end of May, the state water board will consider rules to ban irrigation of non-functional, decorative turf at businesses and other institutions. It will also vote on regulations implementing Newsom's executive order requiring water systems to escalate their drought responses. Nearly 230 water systems have yet to reach the level of drought response the governor ordered, according to state data released Tuesday.

Comments

tmp
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 11, 2022 at 10:55 am
tmp, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 10:55 am

The government keeps asking us to save 15% every year. People have switched out faucets and toilets and cut down, but there is only so much you can do year to year before you are killing your trees and not flushing your toilet.

Plus if it is such a dire emergency then why is there no moratorium on building and adding more people? Tens of millions of square feet of office buildings are going up and the Governor is calling to add millions more homes to add more people.

This makes no sense unless your goal if to make life miserable for the people who live here while allowing your developer buddies to use water and make profits. The government needs to straighten out their priorities and if they take water conservation seriously they need to stop taking it away from people who live here already and have been conserving for years.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2022 at 10:58 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 10:58 am

Many of us have spent a great deal more time in our homes than we did prepandemic. That means a lot more flushes and a lot more handwashing. The early advice of the pandemic was to wash hands frequently for 20 seconds, much longer than most of us were used to doing and consequently using more water.

Like everything else nowadays, blame it on the pandemic and more particularly on the lockdowns.


Old Person
Registered user
Midtown
on May 11, 2022 at 11:21 am
Old Person, Midtown
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 11:21 am

Some people flush 10-15 times at work, just to get rid of incriminating documents.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2022 at 11:31 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 11:31 am

Thank heavens not a single one of the 2,000,000 more people the Bay Area is absorbing because of the new high density housing laws ever flush, ever drink water. Maybe people are listening to ABAG and Atty General Bonta who keep ruling it's illegal to consider increased drought and fire risks whenever they're sued over how housing targets are set,


Anneke
Registered user
Professorville
on May 11, 2022 at 6:24 pm
Anneke, Professorville
Registered user
on May 11, 2022 at 6:24 pm

1. Why are the numbnuts who decided to add this incredible amount of housing in the state not apologizing and recognizing that their "well-laid plans" apparently did not include any thoughts about the severe drought that was already years in the making?

2. Where do we stand with desalination plants? The latest I heard what that it has become very controversial. Why?

3. As long as the state government cannot get their ..... together as it relates to drought, why do they want us to cut back even more, year after year?



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