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Thursday, April 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dry January Hurt CA’s Water-Saving Efforts

SACRAMENTO (CN) - California missed Gov. Jerry Brown's water conservation directive in January, according to data released Tuesday by the state's water board.

January saw just an 8.8 percent reduction in water use compared with the same month last year, well short of the 20 percent mark Brown has asked Californians to meet.

State officials hoped January's totals would build off of December's momentum, which saw a 22 percent decline in water use, but said they are not shocked at the result.

"Today's announcement is a disappointment, but not a surprise considering how dry January was," State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement.

January finished as the driest in the Golden State's recorded history, and the latest measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack show the state is at just 19 percent of normal.

People likely are using their sprinklers and irrigation systems earlier as a result of the dry January, Marcus said.

"Clearly state residents used their outdoor irrigation in January, which appears to account for the decline in water conservation," she added.

January's conservation totals are the latest disappointing news for a state battling water issues, particularly farming allotments and the loss of Chinook salmon populations due to lower river flows. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced last week that California farmers will be cut off from supplies from the federal Central Valley Project for the second year in a row.

California has 10 hydrologic regions, and they all saw a spike in water usage in January. The South Coast region - which includes Los Angeles - saw a 9.2 percent reduction. In December the South Coast region registered 23.2 percent in water savings, the only time the region has met Brown's goal.

On March 17, the water board will discuss and likely renew an emergency water conservation regulation which restricts outdoor water use and authorizes fines for water waste. Water regulators will continue to stress conservation in any decision made going forward, as California adapts to a fourth year of drought.

"If 2015 and then 2016 continue to be dry, we will look back on today, and this month, let alone the last year, wishing we'd saved more water now," Marcus said. "This board is prepared to make some tough decisions in the coming months, including adopting permanent rather than emergency water conservation measures going forward. It is that serious."

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