California Misses|Water Conservation Goal

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – Despite mandatory water restrictions, Californians again failed to meet water-use reduction goals in April, the state regulator said Tuesday.
     Californians reduced urban water use by 13.5 percent compared to April of last year, well short of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 25 percent reduction mandate.
     Brown issued the state’s first mandatory water restrictions April 1 after the Sierra Nevada snowpack was measured at just 5 percent of its historic average.
     April’s results were an improvement over February and March, a sign that mandatory water restrictions may be sinking in with Californians.
     The State Water Resources Control Board said cooler temperatures in April combined with water districts implementing new restrictions contributed to the improvement, but that more improvement is necessary.
     “The real test will be what happens as we move into the hot and dry summer months, when we need to keep the sprinklers off as much as possible,” State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said.
     Cumulative water savings in the past 11 months were just 9 percent better than the same period in 2013. The water board is using the cumulative figure as its official indicator regarding Brown’s 25 percent reduction order, which goes into effect this month.
     While the state did not meet the governor’s goal, officials said the April results show that Californians are trying to save water and adhere to the new restrictions.
     “When they saw the governor out on that dry meadow and saw what was in the executive order and realized it was time to step up, they started stepping up,” said Max Gomberg, environmental scientist for the State Water Board.
     April was the first month that water reduction mandates were enforced by water districts. The state water board said 838 penalties were issued and 22,000 warnings across the state.
     The water board said that during April, 97 water agencies placed no restrictions on the number of days customers were allowed for watering.
     Each of California’s 492 water agencies is required to adopt outdoor irrigation restrictions by May 15 under Brown’s executive order.
     A fourth consecutive year of drought and diminishing reservoir and snowpack levels pushed Brown into issuing the state’s first ever mandatory restrictions. Brown tasked the water board with developing a plan to cut water use by 25 percent, a mandate that sent water districts and Californians scrambling to comply.
     Under the plan, water districts were placed into one of eight reduction tiers, based on water reduction results from last summer. Agencies were given reduction goals ranging from 8 percent to 36 percent compared with 2013 levels.
     Legal issues regarding water districts and their ability to punish high-use customers have intensified, including a class action lawsuit against a Marin County water district last week.
     In an April ruling that drew a sour reaction from Brown and state officials, a California appellate court ruled that a Southern California water district violated state law by placing high-usage customers into more expensive tiers based on their volume of use.
     Since January, Brown has issued the state’s first mandatory water restrictions, signed a $1 billion drought-relief package and sped up controversial water projects.
     In May, Brown addressed critics of his Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which calls for construction of two massive tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, telling them to “shut up” and study the plan more closely.
     Brown later joked with an audience during a speech that he should change the name from tunnels to pipes because it would be more popular.
     As California heads into a typical blazing summer with less water than ever, Marcus stressed the importance of conservation.
     “Whether 12, 24, or 36 percent, these reductions are achievable if we reduce our outdoor irrigation, fix our leaks and think about our water use every day,” the state water board leader said.

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