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California Misses Water Conservation Target By 1 Percent: What's The Next Step?

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In an effort to fight drought in California, residents and businesses were asked to cut water use by 25 percent. After nine months of water conservation efforts, the drought-stricken state narrowly missed its water saving goal.

State regulators said urban residents were able to cut back their water usage by 23.9 percent from June 2015 to February 2016, just 1 percent short from Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's 25 percent goal stated on his April 1, 2015 executive order.

The water saving equates to about 1.19 million acre-feet of water, about 96 percent of the 1.24 million acre-feet of goal set for February. Conservation efforts saved about 368 billion gallons of water, which can supply almost 6 million Californians for one year. 

"Twenty-four percent savings shows enormous effort and a recognition that everyone's efforts matters," said [pdf] State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus. "Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways."

However, this is not enough reason to celebrate, as drought is far from over. 

"The drought is not over," said Max Gomberg, the water board's climate and conservation manager. "Conservation habits are still important heading into this summer."

Even if the water conservation only missed the target by a small margin, non-compliant water suppliers would still be slapped with penalties. Residents and businesses only cut usage by 12 percent, which was the lowest monthly reduction since the mandate became effective in June.

Statistics showed that Southern California residents only cut down usage by only 6.9 percent dragging the state's savings.

A couple of water providers missed their monthly targets forcing regulators to slap them with penalties. Last fall, four suppliers were fined $61,000 for non-compliance. Coachella Valley Water District and Indio Water Authority promised to create environmental projects to reduce water usage.

With the success of the cutback, officials are highly likely to propose regional water conservation efforts, which may relax drought orders in certain areas like in Northern California where some reservoirs are spilling already.

Even if water cutback regulations were relaxed, Marcus still encourages Californians to continue conserving water because California is yet to recover from the exceptional drought that spanned four long years. The state regulators will conduct a public workshop later this month to tackle important steps for water conservation. Any new regulations would take effect in June.

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change states that the four-year drought is the driest California has ever been in 500 years. Researchers found that the Sierra snowpack, which the state relies on, could be in its lowest levels in 3,000 years.

Photo: Bert Kaufmann | Flickr

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