According to new findings by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Water Resources on Tuesday, Californians only reduced water usage statewide by an accumulative 1.8% in July, despite Governor Newsom’s urging that month to hit the 15% mark.
The drought stricken Northern and Central California regions showed the most reductions, with the North Coast reducing usage by 17% in July 2021 compared to July 2020. The Bay Area, also hit hard by the drought, went down by 8.4%. Some cities in particular showed large reductions. Healdsburg, a city of 12,000 in Sonoma County, had usage fall by 54%. Larger cities also hit the mark, such as Santa Rosa, a Sonoma County city of 172,000, reducing water usage by 18%.
However, Southern California, which has been largely unaffected by the drought due to massive recycled water programs, multiple water sources and a greatly reduced water usage level from ten years ago, went down by only 0.1% when compared with last year. Many cities also noted large increases, with Los Angeles and San Diego marking 1% total increases, and Downey, an LA County city of 113,000 people, recording a 14% increase.
Due to the water usage figure still remaining high statewide, Department of Water Resources warned that some regions may see state water allocations slashed by even more than the 5% cut this year. Next years cuts may also affect settlement contractors and those whose claims to water predate the reservoir system in California, as well as steep cuts to the State Water Project, which may allocate no water to some of the 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland connected to the project.
“Californians always have hope, and that’s healthy. But we need to be prudent,” noted the director of the state Department of Water Resources, Karla Nemeth, on Tuesday. “We’re doing more conservative planning than we’ve ever done. The challenge is there is no water. We’re planning for the worst, but we are hoping for something better.
“We’re starting with record low reservoir storage. We would have to have north of 140% of average precipitation to generate average runoff into the reservoirs that would begin filling that hole. We’re going to need all Californians to conserve, and conserve a lot more. We do want to see L.A. into that 15% voluntary level of water-savings. We do think it’s feasible.”
Joaquin Esquivel, the Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, added on Monday that “I’m not here to say 1.8 is a good number. We’re going to have to continue to dig in deeper and look forward to seeing what the numbers show then in August. We need to continue to see that response and decision-making, and the state’s here to make sure that if we need to go mandatory, that’s where we’re going.”
Water usage differs in Northern California, Southern California
Despite the dire situation in the Northern part of the state, many experts have noted that Southern California being asked to reduce usages is almost akin to a punishment for something it didn’t do.
“Los Angeles and really all of Southern California has been working out the right and wrong ways to go about their water supplies for over a century,” said hydrologist Dr. Craig Kirk to the Globe on Tuesday. “LA has not had to rely on reservoirs like the North has, diversifying with numerous sources. So, even if the Colorado River source is reduced, which is likely, there are many other routes. Plus, they are going more into things like desalination plants, so they’re ok for quite some time. It’s just the Northern part of the state refusing to diversify, refusing to put desalination plants up, refusing to connect to other sources and just relying on reservoirs that is screwing things up. And the whole state is punished now for their mismanagement.”
With such a low reduction percentage, Governor Newsom is now more likely to implement mandatory statewide water reduction measures, something that has not been implemented since the mid-2010’s drought in California.
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