Water & Drought

Sacramentans save less water in January

A sprinkler system at the home of Mike Singleman runs during a check for water use by Darren Van Dusen on Friday, May 22, 2015.
A sprinkler system at the home of Mike Singleman runs during a check for water use by Darren Van Dusen on Friday, May 22, 2015. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Sacramento region reduced its water use by 11 percent in January, the worst local results by far since the state mandated cuts last summer, the Regional Water Authority reported Monday.

Most of the region’s water districts are under orders to cut water use by at least 28 percent from June 2015 through February 2016 or face potential penalties. They have largely succeeded. From June through December, the city of Sacramento achieved 31 percent savings; the Sacramento County Water Agency cut use by 37 percent and the city of Roseville reduced use by 36 percent, state figures show.

The January figures paint a different story. Previously, the lowest conservation savings, as compared to 2013, were in December, when the region cut its use by 26 percent.

It’s harder to conserve water in the winter than in the summer because lawn irrigation is not prevalent; residents can’t just shut off their sprinklers to save a large amount of water. Instead, residents must try to achieve savings through myriad small, indoor efforts like taking shorter showers or reducing toilet flushes.

The weather likely contributed to the low savings. It rained more than five inches in Sacramento during January, convincing some residents that the urgent need to conserve water was fading. (By comparison, it has rained less than an inch so far in February.)

Tom Gray, general manager at the Fair Oaks Water District, said three factors contribute to the lower savings in January: the challenges of conserving water in the winter; the reports of heavy January snow in the Sierra and news that water operators at Folsom Dam have started making large water releases from a rising Folsom Lake.

“You put those three together, it’s a new hardship on the districts,” he said.

Amy Talbot, water efficiency program manager at the Regional Water Authority, said lower water use reductions were expected in winter.

“With limited opportunities to further reduce water use outdoors, people have to squeeze their savings from indoor conservation, which is a much more difficult task,” she said. “In spite of that challenge, residents continued to conserve.”

Phillip Reese: 916-321-1137, @PhillipHReese