Drought-weary California improves on lagging conservation

La Habra and El Segundo, for example, were the only water districts in the region to save more water in September than they did a year earlier, according to the state water board.

California remains under a almost three-year-old state-declared drought emergency, despite improved rain and snow since last winter.

Numerous state's more than 400 water agencies are urging against a return to conservation orders. The bill, called the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB 1755) from Assemblymember Bill Dodd, is meant to improve access to water transfer information and other water and ecological data as California continues to deal with the drought.

Water officials on Tuesday declared themselves satisfied overall with the latest figures. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory 25 percent conservation by cities and towns. Mandatory was a good idea to get things going.

The drought monitor's October 27 report showed a slight easing, with 81 percent of the state in drought last week, compared with 97 percent a year earlier.

California's drought czars are welcoming the wet start to the state's rainy season. But compared with the same time previous year - when Californians saved 26.2 percent in water consumption - water use increased by almost 8 percent. But other water districts say the key questions to study are longer term: Will people who took the rebates keep their yards lawn-free for 15 or 30 years, and will the rebates help set trends for lawn-free looks using plants more suitable to the climate?

Drought-weary California improves on lagging conservation

Last year, however, mandatory cuts were in place and irrigation basically came to a standstill.

Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus says September's figures will show water use by Californians has stabilized for now.

Although October storms in Northern California provided an encouraging start to the 2016-2017 water year (Oct. 1, 2016 - September 30, 2017), planning for the possibility of another dry winter is essential.

"We are nearly 400 percent of the normal amount of rain in October here in the north and even the San Joaquin and Tulare regions are well above their averages as well", says Doug Carlson with the California Department of Water Resources.

The State Water Board will continue to monitor conservation levels and water supply conditions, and staff will develop a proposal for extended emergency conservation regulations in January 2017.

Currently, just one-fifth of the state - in the south - remains in the most severe category of drought. That compares to almost half the state at this time a year ago.

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  • Marjorie Miles