Water Savings Rebound; Region Beats State Mandates Through March

Short Title
Water Savings Rebound; Region Beats State Mandates Through March
Residents and businesses continue to conserve as new targets take effect
April 25, 2016

Preliminary data released today by the San Diego County Water Authority show that the San Diego area is continuing to beat the state’s aggregate savings target for the region, reducing potable water use by 21 percent from June 2015 through March 2016.

The State Water Resources Control Board measures emergency conservation compliance on a cumulative basis, even though water-use reports are filed monthly. Starting in March, the region’s aggregate cumulative target is 13 percent – down from 20 percent during the initial phase of the state mandates due to credits for drought-resilient water supplies from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. The plant produces up to 56,000 acre-feet per year, enough to serve roughly 400,000 residents.

“After almost a year of unprecedented emergency conservation orders, we’ve exceeded the state’s goals thanks to continued diligence by homeowners and businesses,” said Mark Weston, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “Those efforts, coupled with decades of investments in safe and reliable supplies, mean we are well-positioned to meet our region’s water needs today and for years to come, regardless of the weather.”

March was the first month in which Water Authority member agencies benefitted from reductions in state water-use targets; most local agencies’ targets were lowered by 8 percentage points from the initial phase of regulations, which lasted from June 2015 through February 2016. The revised state mandates require local water agencies to reduce water use by 8 to 28 percent compared to a 2013 baseline, providing greater flexibility to irrigate trees deeply, replace lawns with WaterSmart landscapes, and preserve fire-safe buffers around homes near open spaces.

The region used 17 percent less potable water in March compared to the same month in 2013, even though San Diego’s rainfall was below average last month and significantly lower than in the baseline month. March also marked a turnaround from February, when regional water conservation suffered due to unseasonably high temperatures and almost no precipitation.

“The region’s ability to significantly increase water conservation in March underscores our collective commitment to careful stewardship of water supplies,” said Bob Yamada, director of water resources for the Water Authority. “As we head into the typically dry months ahead, it’s important to comply with water-use rules set by local water agencies. Because agencies have different state-mandated targets, restrictions will vary from place to place.”

Drought conditions persist across California despite El Niño conditions that produced significant rain and snow in Northern California over the winter. Some of the state’s key reservoirs have recently reached or surpassed their average water levels for this time of year, but others remain well below average. The northern Sierra Nevada snowpack – which feeds the State Water Project with runoff – was slightly below its historical average at the end of March.

The State Board is expected to reconsider its water-use regulation in May, taking into account updated supply conditions. More information about the state regulation, including a comparison of local agencies’ conservation targets, is at www.sdcwa.org/state-board-regulations.

For information about conservation programs, as well as water-use rules by community and drought conditions, go to whenindrought.org.