El Nino Won't End California's Water Conservation Drive
In January 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating a 25 percent reduction of urban water use across the state. At that time districts consuming more than 165 gallons per day per person were required to cut consumption by 35 percent. Districts consuming smaller amounts of water – less than 55 gallons per day per person – were required to cut consumption by 10 percent.
With the hottest and driest weather cycle the western U.S. is experiencing exceptional dryness and record warming, with the past four winters producing the California’s most severe drought conditions in a century.
Summer temperatures have presented complications with soaring 100+ degree weather that scorched and dehydrated everything in the state. With no rain in sight, usage increased rather than decreased as a result.
To counter the problem, larger water districts began to develop sustainable water conservation plans to reduce their monthly water usage by 35 percent while the smaller water districts, which are the majority, had to reduce goals of 20 percent to 30 percent.
In April, the plans were implemented. They included rebate programs for lawn removal in favor of drought-tolerant landscaping, collecting shower water for plants and trees, tight schedules for when and how long you could run irrigation systems and prohibitions on car washing and hosing down sidewalks.
Simultaneously, all Orange County water districts (retailers) got water allotments cut by wholesale providers. Since North County water districts receive all of their water from groundwater (72 percent provided by the Orange County Water District), the South County district imports all its water. The majority of retail water districts still get their water through a combination of imports and groundwater.
The challenge each retail district faces is trying to balance revenue and expenses between the water it must purchase from the wholesaler vs. the savings from its conservation plans, which means residential users and the monthly goal set by the governor.
Surprisingly, from May-August, all 38 Orange County retail water districts and their cities reported monthly consumption savings in excess of their cities mandated targets of eight percent to 35 percent - unexpected yet very promising.
No one knows whether future weather patterns are going to change. We may experience a 5th dry winter season or get relief from a “Godzilla El Nino” which would bring relief of massive moisture and replenish water tables and mountain snowpack which sustains the region during the summer months.
We just have to wait and see what Mother Nature decides. Without much needed rainfall, it is certain that more severe conservation measures will be required.
Private consumers can become a part of the solution. WaterXtender™ keeps lawns and gardens green and healthy but consumes less water and helps all plants survive during drought conditions.