It seemed like a tall order: California drought regulators were demanding that urban residents slash water consumption by 25 percent, and even more in the Sacramento area.
Sacramento residents met the state’s mandate. The region reduced water use by 30 percent in calendar 2015, according to data released Thursday by the Sacramento Regional Water Authority.
The savings came to 33 percent after June 1, when the mandatory conservation measures kicked in, said Amy Talbot, the water authority’s water efficiency program manager.
Gov. Jerry Brown last year ordered Californians to reduce water consumption by a statewide average of 25 percent, as compared with 2013. But the mandates varied widely from one water district to the next, depending on historical consumption records, with the heaviest per-capita users under orders to conserve the most. The mandates are due to expire at the end of February.
That put districts in the hot, dry Sacramento region under the gun. The area’s water districts faced an average savings mandate of 30 percent, with many districts in the top tier of 36 percent.
“I feel like the region’s definitely stepped up,” Talbot said.
The mandates are expected to be extended through October, but most likely with easier standards for the Sacramento region and other inland communities. Sacramento area water managers have urged the State Water Resources Control Board to relax the mandates for inland communities where evaporation makes it harder to keep trees and lawns watered.
Talbot said the first draft of the new proposed regulations would have reduced conservation mandates in the Sacramento region by an average of 4 percentage points. A more recent version of the regulations, released last week, would reduce the mandates in Sacramento by only 3 percentage points, she said.
She called the difference significant and added: “We’re a little disappointed to see that, because we know climate has a huge impact on our water use.”
The board is expected to vote on new standards next month. The mandates could be loosened even more, or scrapped completely, if state officials decide later this spring that the winter rains have put enough of a dent in the drought.