In California, Voluntary Water Saving Not Working

April 6, 2022

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Gotta water the lawn.

Los Angeles Times:

Total water usage in California cities and towns decreased by just half a percent in February compared to the same month in 2020, a far cry from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal of reducing urban water use by 15%.

Figures released this week by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that even during a third year of drought, Californians have been slow to step up conservation efforts. 

Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the water board, said it’s vital that Californians continue to make progress on conservation, “given not just this drought but the increasing aridity in the West” with climate change.

Newsom in July called for Californians to voluntary reduce water use by 15%. But the state’s cumulative water savings from July through February stand at 5.8% compared to the same months in 2020, down from 6.4% a month ago.

The levels of most of California’s biggest reservoirs, from Shasta Lake to San Luis Reservoir, are far below average. And the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada now stands at just 31% of average.


The mountain snowpack, which typically makes up nearly a third of California’s water supply, has shrunk rapidly during the state’s driest January through March on record.

“What we would normally anticipate being our wettest months of the year, we had historic dries this year,” Michael Macon, an environmental scientist, told the water board. He said the drought conditions are intensifying, “and we anticipate it only getting worse through the summer.”

This month is again expected to be warm and dry, Macon said, and based on the latest forecasts, “we’re looking at the driest three-year period on record.”


State officials presented data Tuesday that showed per-capita residential water use in February averaged 74 gallons per day, one of the highest amounts in nearly a decade. The month was warmer than average and extremely dry, which can push up water use. 

The board’s staff also analyzed data from urban water suppliers statewide and found that the vast majority of water agencies charge less per additional unit of water as customers use more.

“The effect of this is that customers who are using the most water are given this sort of bulk discount,” said Charlotte Ely of the agency’s research and planning office. “They’re paying less per unit as they consume more.”

3 Responses to “In California, Voluntary Water Saving Not Working”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    For residential, it won’t address the wealthy people like Oprah, but steep tiered pricing of water consumption could help with the population at large (making people with pools or irrigated lawns feel the bite). They might need better tracking and management of leaking water mains, too.

    Of course, this doesn’t address agriculture (using untreated water), which is the greatest consumer of water in the region.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Many years back I was having all of the St. Augustine removed from my front yard (I don’t get people in central Texas having St. Aug!). I didn’t even ask what that tufted grass was that my landscape guy was putting in, but he said “I got you something drought-tolerant.” I gave him a side-hug and told him I loved him.

    (He gets me.)

  3. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    California will have to control all those HOAs that demand green lawns regardless.


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