Water & Drought

Sacramento residents cut March water use by nearly 40 percent

mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Water districts across the Sacramento region and California posted big conservation savings in March, aided in large part by cool, wet weather, the State Water Resources Control Board reported Tuesday.

Sacramento-area residents used 37 percent less water in March than during the same month in 2013, a decline of about 3.6 billion gallons. Statewide, water use fell 24 percent.

California water districts still must conserve or face financial penalties. The water board recently adopted amended standards for urban districts that lowered the statewide conservation target to 20 percent, down from 25 percent, compared with the same months in 2013. The mandates vary by city, with bigger per capita users targeted for bigger cuts. Most communities in the Sacramento region, historically a heavy water consumer, face targets of 25 percent to 33 percent. The water board will consider further easing of the conservation rules later this month.

The state’s two largest Northern California reservoirs hold more water than normal for this time of year, but most of California remains in extreme or exceptional drought.

The sharp declines in March water use followed several months in which many communities failed to hit their conservation targets.

“This is the most welcome news we’ve had in a long time,” said water board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus. “This says something about (attitudes toward) the lawn, because in the rain people know to turn off their sprinklers.”

March is typically a buffer month between winter and spring when residents are just starting to turn on sprinklers. This year, Sacramento saw 5.1 inches of rain in March. In 2013, by comparison, Sacramento saw 1.4 inches of rain, federal figures show.

Orange Vale Water Company, which serves central Orangevale and sections of Folsom and Fair Oaks in suburban Sacramento County, reported the state’s largest March water savings, at 67 percent. The San Juan Water District, which includes Granite Bay, reported a 50 percent decline in water use compared with 2013.

Parts of Southern California saw below-average precipitation in March and did not save as much water. The South Coast hydrological region, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego, posted 21 percent water savings in March compared with 2013. The Colorado River hydrological region, which includes much of the Inland Empire, reported 19 percent savings.

“The real trick is to keep people saving as we get into the warmer months,” Marcus said. “If you don’t love your lawn, you ought to lose it. If you do love your lawn, you ought to put it on a diet.”

Phillip Reese: 916-321-1137, @PhillipHReese

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