California drought: Water conservation slipping statewide as dry weather returns
As California suffers through another dry winter, increasing fears that drought conditions may be returning, the state’s residents are dropping conservation habits that were developed during the last drought and steadily increasing their water use with each passing month.
But in each of those eight months last year, the water savings dropped from 20 percent in May to 2.8 percent in an unseasonably dry December.
Many eased, or dropped entirely, their mandatory water restrictions, rebate programs and other incentives to conserve, because they wanted to make more money by selling more water, and in part because it was difficult to convince their customers of the urgency when the state had just seen its wettest winter in 20 years.
By December, the most recent month for which the State Water Resources Control Board has data, statewide water use was only down 2.8 percent, compared with December 2013, the baseline year that state water regulators use for monthly water conservation reports.
That happened after the 1976-77 drought, the 1987-92 drought and the 2007-2009 drought.
That year, in the most stark depths of the drought, snow levels ended at 5 percent of normal on April 1, an all-time record low that led Brown that day to travel to a grassy meadow at Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe that should have been under five feet of snow and declare the first statewide mandatory water restrictions in California history, with a target of reducing urban water use by 25 percent — a goal the state nearly met.
Ever since Brown declared the drought over, some parts of California have conserved more than others.
Cities around the Bay Area saved 15.5 percent, and cities on in the South Coast region, mostly Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, saved the least, 11.7 percent.
The city continues to offer $125 rebates for people who buy low-flush toilets, along with paying $2 per square foot for people who remove lawns.
“All the programs are still in place.