By Suzanne Hurt, The Press-Enterprise
Los Angeles Daily News
State officials lauded Californians’ continued water savings Monday while issuing a stern warning: State-mandated restrictions will be imposed again on suppliers that fail to take extended conservation needs seriously.
Californians’ water scrimping kept climbing in April, with 43.7 billion gallons of water saved and per person daily water use slashed by 27 gallons compared to April 2013.
Statewide savings rose to 26.1 percent for the month. Per person daily consumption dropped from 104 gallons in April 2013 to 77 gallons two months ago, according to compliance figures released Monday by the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento.
Yet sustained conservation remains critical as summer arrives in the state’s fifth year of drought, and water suppliers’ efforts to develop and meet their own conservation goals will be closely watched, board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said during a call with reporters Monday afternoon.
“The drought is not over. The need for conservation is not over. And the emergency regulations are not over. They are modified,” said Max Gomberg, a climate and conservation manager for the water resources control board.
State officials in May agreed to end emergency drought restrictions requiring suppliers to save 25 percent statewide, through individualized water conservation targets of up to 36 percent set by the board.
Under an emergency conservation regulation that took effect June 1, water suppliers must now develop their own conservation goals, based on their assessments of what their three-year water supplies and demands will be if the drought continues. The regulation is in effect until February 2017.
Some suppliers had been pushing for relief from the state’s emergency water conservation requirements but assured state water officials they’d keep encouraging customers to save water.
With suppliers in Inland Southern California and throughout the state already lifting or easing restrictions on their water customers, Marcus said state officials expect water agencies to take conservation requirements seriously or face new state-mandated savings orders.
“If this approach doesn’t work, we are prepared to call folks on it,” she said.
Reservoir levels need to be replenished and maintained as most of the state remains in a drought.
The best place for Californians to curb water use is in landscaping, which guzzles more than half the water consumed in some areas and 80 percent in others, Marcus said.
“We need people to keep it up over the hot summer months,” she said.
Water wholesalers must report their three-year water supply projections by June 15. Water retailers, some of whom get their water from wholesalers, must turn in their supply projections, assuming three more dry years, and calculations used to form new self-determined water conservation goals by June 22.
Suppliers that expect to have a 10 percent water deficit after three years must set a 10 percent savings goal, Gomberg said.
Those savings targets take effect in June. State water officials, who continue requiring monthly conservation reports, will be able to see by the end of July whether suppliers are meeting their new standards, Gomberg added.