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So Cal Water Usage is Up During Drought, San Juan Capistrano Cited for Wasting Water

California’s State Water Resources Control Board just released a report showing that in spite of facing a drought of historic proportions, California’s statewide water usage actually increased by one percent.   From Yahoo! News:

The report says overall consumption jumped 1 percent, even as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback. It corrected survey results released just a month ago that said use statewide had declined by 5 percent.

What’s more, the Water Board is blaming that increase in usage on Southern California.  According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News “California’s north-south water rivalry revved up Wednesday, a day after a state survey showed that while most of the drought-ravaged state modestly reduced its water consumption, coastal Southern California is headed in the wrong direction.  It increased its water use by 8 percent in May compared with the average of the three previous Mays.”

Cue a smug Northern Californian from central casting:

“Everybody is all about themselves in Southern California,” seethed Kip Miller, who with his wife, Darsi, owns L.C. Action, a police supply store in San Jose. “Here we have companies like Tesla and Google that are doing things every day that are better for the planet. But down there, they have all those Beverly Hills lawns and movie stars and high-dollar landscapers.”

How about another?

“I am glad they will be fining these seemingly entitled (Southern Californians) for wasting what is basically our water,” fumed Julie Wolfe, a resident of Brookdale in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

You couldn’t script them better than that, could you?

In fact, merely measuring year over year usage is inaccurate and doesn’t give the full picture.  First, no region in California met the Governor’s target of a 20% reduction — not even Santa Cruz.  Second, Southern California water officials point out that water usage here is already in conservation mode and is being measured from a lower baseline.  Again, from the Mercury News:

Officials also noted that many Southern California localities had already cut their water use far more than the rest of the state before the current drought began, giving them a lower “starting point.”  Michelle Vargas, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said the city uses 17 percent less water now than it did in 2009, before its current conservation law took effect, and now uses only 129 gallons per capita per day — substantially less than the state average of 196. “This has been a way of life in the city of Los Angeles,” she said.

The State Water Resources Control Board did name and shame some Southern California cities for excessive increases in water usage.  The worst offender in the state? Santa Ana, although the City is contesting that the Board’s numbers are incorrect.

The second biggest water hog in the state?  San Juan Capistrano.

 ”When you look at a longer period of time, we’re still using less water — about 10 percent less — than we were five years ago,” said Francie Kennedy, water conservation coordinator for San Juan Capistrano, which ranked second on the state’s list of water hogs.

Now if only there was a way to use water rates to encourage water conservation?  Ouch.  Too soon?

Sadly, however, residential water use is just a small component of the State’s overall water usage.  California agriculture accounts for between 75-80% of the state’s water usage.  Farmers are currently using wells to access their ground water reserves during the drought, but if the drought persists those wells will run dry.  Ground water is a temporary workaround during short term shortages.  It is not a permanent source of water.

State officials are considering stiff penalties and fines for water waste.

The proposal being considered Tuesday by the state board would prohibit the watering of landscaping to the point that runoff spills onto sidewalks or streets. Hosing down sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces would be banned in most cases, along with washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle.  Violations would be infractions punishable by fines, although most cities are likely to have a sliding scale that starts with a warning and increases for repeat violations.

Water usage and allocation is clearly an issue that is not going away any time soon.

1 comment to So Cal Water Usage is Up During Drought, San Juan Capistrano Cited for Wasting Water

  • Jim Reardon

    It seems clear that the misinformation coming from NorCal-oriented water gods will destroy their credibility. It was only a few weeks back that they were blaming cities like San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco for failing to make progress on their 20/20 water conservation goals. This was the previously adopted goal of reducing domestic water use by 20 percent by the year 2020. The northern urban areas have made little progress toward this goal while southern California cities are well on the way. Many, like San Juan Capistrano, have already met that goal.

    Then the Governor moved the goal post and declared the need for an immediate 20 percent reduction due to the drought. For those northern urban areas, an immediate 20 percent cut will be tough. But for an area that has already cut its use by 20 percent, another 20 percent reduction is near impossible. In the rhetoric surrounding all this, San Juan Capistrano is a water “hog”?

    Statements like these are the reason the SWRCB and their minions lack the moral authority to persuade us to conserve. Instead, they resort to bad logic, bad math and social engineering (e.g, tiered rates that penalize larger households while sparing about 80 of water users), all of which accomplish little.

    In San Juan Capistrano, the city obtains roughly half its water from an expensive locally-developed source, the Ground Water Recover Plant. Residents pay a high price for this in their water bills. But that 50 percent reduction in our demand on the imported (MWD) water supply isn’t counted. It is true that the underground water supply is also limited, but this is a matter that should be managed locally — not from Sacramento. Why local agencies continue to cooperate in this rigged game is anyone’s guess. Why voters continue to tolerate it is another interesting question.

    The ability and credibility of the Governor and the SWRCB to hector southern cities to conserve is insufficient. Their authority in the matter is already in tatters. It is time that we move directly to water restrictions and penalties, if these are in fact necessary. Local leaders need to take charge and make this determination and stop pandering to these idiots in the north.