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Water usage increases in California as drought continues

Despite calls to curtail water usage, a new report shows that Californians used more water than last year.

(CN) — Years of drought, low snowpack, repeated requests and orders to cut back water usage have all seem for naught, according to a new report released Tuesday by the State of California Water Resources Control Board which shows that water usage in urban areas actually increased by 17.6% compared to last year.

The report covers water usage from April 2021 to April 2022 and shows that urban areas have failed to meet the goal set by California Governor Gavin Newsom to cut water usage by 15%.

“In California, the hots are getting hotter and the dries are getting drier. California will enter the dry summer months with below-average reservoir storage and with the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, at critically low levels. The Sierra snowpack is essentially gone, and runoff into the state’s streams and reservoirs has largely peaked for the year. The latest water use numbers reported to the Water Board are disappointing, and the Governor has made it clear that if we do not start seeing increased conservation across the state there may be a need to move to mandatory state water conservation measures," the California Governor's Office said in a statement.

Many water districts and communities across the California have instituted rules around when and how often people can water lawns, outdoor plants and wash vehicles. Some communities have recently gone as far as cutting off water for outdoor use, especially in southern California.

The new report, which will change going forward and no longer be a month behind as Newsom is now requesting all water districts to turn in their usage reports at the beginning of the month for the previous month instead of at the end of the month. For example, water districts had until the 28th day of the month to report the previous month, i.e. May 28 to report April numbers. Water districts will now have to report their numbers by the third business day of the month.

In a meeting with water district and leaders of communities across California, Newsom warned them that California could institute statewide mandates. In a press release from the Governor’s Office issued on May 23, local water agencies pushed for greater flexibility in meeting targets set by the state.

Now with local water districts missing those targets across California with many reservoirs, streams and rivers at all-time historic lows and many of them no longer free flowing; it is not known if Newsom will take additional action and enact mandated water restrictions to local water districts. The Governor’s Office did not immediately respond or issue a press release after the report was issued.

The increase in the amount of water used during the month of April is the third month this year in which water consumption has gone up compared to 2021. In March, water use rose by 18.9% and which was quickly followed by another announcement from Newsom urging Californians to reduce their water usage and California following up with messages and advertisements throughout the state. The state also ordered businesses to stop watering lawns to help meet the goals of reducing water usage.

The report does not reflect usage from any new restrictions announced in May and instituted by water districts across California. Important reservoirs are still at historically low levels even after a bout of rain and snow late in the year which did little to alleviate the drought conditions impacting the state.

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