At the start of its fourth year of extreme drought, California has received a small piece of good news amidst all the worry about rapidly draining water supplies. After repeated calls from officials, state agencies, and water groups for the state to reduce its water consumption, it appears that the message is sinking in. California reduced its water usage in the month of August by over 11% – still a far cry from the 20% called for by Governor Jerry Brown in his emergency drought proclamation but none the less an improvement on previous savings.
The State Water Resources Control Board announced this week that water consumption by Californians dropped significantly during August, the hottest month of the year, with an 11.5% reduction in water use compared to August of last year. This was a definite increase from the 7.5% savings in the month of July and the meager 4.4% cuts in June, with many areas of the state actually increasing their water consumption during those months. However it seems that the frequent messaging from local governments and state agencies alike have gotten the important message across more effectively as the state on the whole has saved 27 billion gallons of water in August alone.
The increase in savings can in part be attributed to the fact that August was the first month of full enforcement of the SWRCB’s water waste restrictions, which included both banned uses of water such as overwatering lawns and washing down sidewalks as well as fines for flouting the rules. However even with these state-wide rules in place and enforcement coming into full effect, the savings still varied throughout the state, often depending on which areas and districts had imposed further restrictions.
Regionally, the area of the state that saved the most water overall was the Sacramento area with a 22.6% drop in their water consumption, followed by the Bay Area saving 15%, and the Los Angeles area saving 7.8%. Some individual cities with significant water savings include Tracy with 41% savings, Pleasanton at 33%, Menlo Park at 32%, and Santa Cruz at 28%, with other cities posting impressive water use reductions as well. Many other cities and water districts also posted impressive numbers, helping to bring the state to overalls savings even though other areas and districts were not as successful in their efforts to curb water use.
While it may seem that Southern California did not contribute to the water saving effort as much as the northern areas of the state, in truth a 7.8% reduction is a significant amount for a region that had already begun their water savings efforts many years ago. Many cities in Southern California have been implementing water savings programs since the last significant drought that lasted from 1987 to 1992, including rebate programs for water-efficient appliances and ongoing pushes for awareness and conservation. The baseline water use in Southern California was lower to begin with because of this, meaning that their smaller percentage of water savings is still just as impressive as the high percentages in other areas of the state.
While these savings alone will not help solve the water crisis entirely, they are certainly a step in the right direction towards ensuring that the state has enough water for the future. Whether or not there will be rain to help ease some of the worst shortages this winter is still very much up in the air, with scientists debating back and forth whether or not this will be an El Nino season and many climatologists warning people not to get their hopes up just yet. This means that educating people now on all of the ways that they can and should save water is crucially important if we want to have enough water going forward, and these improving numbers in regards to water saving are a positive sign that the message is spreading.
There are measures all of us can take to ensure that we save even more water and reach the Governor’s target of a full 20% water savings throughout the state. By working together and pushing ourselves to save as much water as possible, we will be able to secure our future with enough water for all.