January was one of the driest months on record in California. And it looks as though Californians responded accordingly, using more water than in the previous month.
The conservation rate was just under nine percent in January, down from 22 percent in December.
The State Water Resources Control Board says outdoor irrigation likely increased.
Max Gomberg with the Office of Research, Planning and Performance says that has to improve.
“It’s hard to sustain a sense of urgency and emergency for a longer period of time," says Gomberg. "But unfortunately we don’t have a choice. We have to redouble the efforts collectively, all of us because water conservation is an area where the individual decisions add up.”
The number of gallons used per person per day in January increased only slightly from 67 to 73.
But David Boland, with the Association of California Water Agencies, says it’s important to put the low conservation numbers into some perspective.
“Looking at year over year, 2013 to 2014 and then 2015 the trends are really important," says Boland. "We are seeing across all the hydrologic regions a lowering of per capita use. I think those are important things to keep in mind.”
Since June of last year, Californians have saved more than 146 billion gallons of water.
Judging by the March manual snow survey, Californians are going to need every drop. Statewide water content in the snowpack is just five inches, 19-percent of the March multi-decade average.
The Department of Water Resources says without a repeat of 1991’s “Miracle March” this wet season will end with an alarmingly low snowpack.
Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, says that should give Californians further incentive to conserve.
“It’s just a nightmare to consider the pain that many Californians are going to go through next year, which is a piece of why we’re so insistent that urban California step up for their own self-interest and resilience," says Marcus. "We can’t deliver bottled water to millions and millions of people.”
At its next meeting, the water board will consider further emergency regulations that could include preventing restaurants from automatically serving water to customers or requiring hotels to give guests the option not to have their towels washed every day.