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California's Water Conservation Rate Drops

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Low water levels in New Melones Reservoir

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

You could call it “conservation fatigue.” But the reason behind California’s diminishing conservation rate is more complicated than that. The statewide rate dropped from 10.3 percent in September to 6.7 percent in October. Eric Oppenheimer with the State Water Resources Control Board says one reason for the difference may be the season change.

“The proportion of outdoor water use is going down and indoor water use is going up and with less outdoor water use there is just less opportunity to save water,” says Oppenheimer.

California’s southern coast had the worst conservation rate- at 1.4 percent, skewing the rate for the rest of the state. Ken Weinberg with the San Diego County Water Authority says part of the reason for their six percent increase in water use has to do with weather.

“The first week of the month was 14 degrees above the average temperature so that had a big impact,” says Weinberg.

That could have led to more outdoor lawn watering with faster evaporation rates. But southern California had already taken a number of conservation steps – so there may be fewer ways to save. 

“So it just becomes challenging which is why we started looking at residential gallons per capita per day because it gives you more of a comparison of how folks are doing," says Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

The data shows Californians used about 109 gallons per capita per day in October compared to 123 gallons in September. But Marcus says the numbers are not a report card. If there is a silver lining to all of the numbers it’s this: Californians have saved 90 billion gallons of water since the board starting keeping track in June. That’s enough water to supply 1.2 million households for an entire year.