Editorials

Sacramento region has no excuse to let up on conserving water

An electronic highway sign in Los Angeles urges motorists to conserve water during the drought. Despite such efforts, California is well short of the 20 percent reduction goal.
An electronic highway sign in Los Angeles urges motorists to conserve water during the drought. Despite such efforts, California is well short of the 20 percent reduction goal. Associated Press file

It’s encouraging that Sacramento-region residents are doing better at conserving water. In October, Sacramento’s per person residential use dipped below the statewide average – a notable achievement.

Yet we shouldn’t congratulate ourselves too much. We use much more water than folks in Southern California, where conservation measures have been in place much longer so it’s more difficult to squeeze out further savings.

The State Water Resources Control Board was told Tuesday that California, as a whole, is backsliding and falling well short of the 20 percent conservation goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown in January in his emergency drought declaration.

The year-over-year reduction in October was 6.7 percent, compared with 11.6 percent for August and 10.3 percent for September. Later this month, the water board plans to discuss how to get back on track.

The numbers vary widely between regions of the state – an 18.6 percent reduction in water use in the Sacramento River area, compared with 1.4 percent for the South Coast, for instance. Weather and other factors affect water demand, but so does commitment to conservation.

In the report, Sacramento was one of nine urban water districts highlighted for their success. It reached the 20 percent goal; its per capita residential water use was an estimated 108 gallons a day in October, right at the statewide average. When commercial use is added in, Sacramento went from 218 gallons per person per day in 2013 to 207 gallons this year.

Davis also made the good list; its per capita residential use was down 23 percent, to 105 gallons a day in October.

Despite the conservation gains, the Sacramento region numbers are still well above those in Southern California. For example, Los Angeles reported daily residential use at 88.5 gallons per person in October, while San Diego reported 76 gallons a day.

The record drought makes conservation more crucial. This week’s rain provides some relief – even as it causes some flooding – but it will take many more storms to replenish the snowpack and reservoirs. Sacramento residents are supposed to be watering their lawns only on Saturdays or Sundays during the winter – and not at all when there’s rain. Will everyone remember to turn off their sprinklers since we’re getting drenched this week?

City officials also can’t lose focus. They are finally looking at a faster and cheaper approach to installing water meters, with the goal to finish by 2020, five years before a state deadline. With some 62,000, Sacramento has by far the most residences in the state without water meters – a basic conservation tool.

The City Council is expected to review the revised plan by January. Unless there’s some big unforeseen hurdle, council members should give their blessing as one more way to save precious water.

  Comments