Water & Drought

Water use spikes in Southern California, Granite Bay

A worker adjusts a sprinkler at a Sacramento home last June.
A worker adjusts a sprinkler at a Sacramento home last June. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Californians as a whole continue to conserve water under new regulations that allow urban water agencies to set their own conservation targets, but to a lesser extent than last summer when stricter rules were in force, according to state data released Wednesday.

The State Water Resources Control Board said Wednesday that water use in California’s urban districts declined 20 percent on average in July compared to the same month in 2013. That marks an increase in usage from last summer, when July water use fell 31 percent compared to 2013.

State officials nonetheless touted the results as a positive sign that conservation remains in play across the state. They also noted areas of concern, including some communities in the Sacramento region, where water use had rebounded toward 2013 levels at a much faster pace than the state average.

“We are watching trends in parts of California that suggest some areas may be easing up more than the improved conditions may warrant, while other areas are continuing to conserve for the long-term,” Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board, said in a written statement.

State officials called out Southern California as one example. The region conserved 28 percent in July 2015 compared with 2013. This summer, that number fell to 16.9 percent savings.

In the Sacramento-area, state officials singled out San Juan Water District as a utility that reported a troubling spike in water use. Last July, the district serving affluent Granite Bay cut water use by 41 percent year over year. This July, the savings registered at 14 percent.

The city of Sacramento, by contrast, was touted for maintaining its conservation efforts. Last year, city residents cut water use by 35 percent in July. This year, it was 25 percent.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the state’s urban water districts to cut water use by an average of 25 percent compared to 2013, with the biggest users targeted for the biggest cuts. The state relaxed its standards earlier this year, allowing districts to estimate shortfalls in supplies and set their own conservation targets accordingly.

About 85 percent of the state’s water districts reported they have adequate supplies to handle continued drought and should not be subject to state-mandated conservation targets.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow