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Sacramento Water Agency Ends Mandatory Conservation

Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio

Despite the end of mandatory statewide conservation regulations, many local water agencies in California continue to offer rebates to customers for water saving measures, such as swapping grass for drought-tolerant and native plants.

Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio

The Sacramento Suburban Water District is asking customers to voluntarily conserve 10 percent after the district voted June 7 to end mandatory conservation restrictions in place since May 2015. 

The California State Water Resources Control Board dropped mandatory requirements in May. 

Under regulations that took effect June 1, local water suppliers must calculate conservation standards for customers based on a "stress test." Suppliers have to prove they have sufficient water supplies to meet customer demand should the state experience three years of continuous drought. 

But the state board says it may tweak those rules in the future, depending on water supply sources and the effectiveness of local conservation efforts. And the agency says conservation remains critical as the drought continues.

The percentage of California in the most intense drought conditions, extreme and exceptional, has been reduced year-over-year, from May 2015 to May 2016. And, part of the state is not in drought.

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A statewide ban on hosing off sidewalks and driveways continues, along with watering lawns in a way that causes runoff. 

The state rules also prohibit homeowners associations or local governments from taking action against homeowners who reduce or stop watering their lawns. 

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Two homes next to one another in Sacramento, California. Statewide mandatory conservation rules have ended. Many local water agencies are asking customers for voluntary conservation as they continue rebate programs encouraging the removal of grass. Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio

 

The Sacramento Suburban Water District says its customers conserved nearly 30 percent from June 2015 to February 2016. Despite ending mandatory conservation, the district says water efficiency remains a priority and it continues funding rebate programs.

 

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The City of Roseville recently moved to voluntary conservation, joining other agencies across the state. 

California is in the fifth consecutive year of drought. The mandatory water conservation restrictions have ended, but the drought has not. 

The three-month seasonal outlook from federal forecasters shows drought persisting through August. And long-term drought remains in much of central California.

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Sierra Nevada snowpack was much improved in April 2016 compared to April 2015, when there was virtually no snow to melt for spring runoff. California reservoir storage, especially in northern California, reflects the improvement.

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As of June 8, the statewide Sierra snowpack was 9 percent of normal. The north-south split in precipitation in winter 2015-16 brought more rain and snow to northern California.

The difference is still reflected in current snowpack conditions, with the northern Sierra at 19 percent of normal, while snow has melted away at the 27 reporting stations in the southern Sierra.

"Californians continue to demonstrate that they are serious about water conservation, which is fabulous," said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus, as the board released a report this week showing Californians conserved 26.1 percent in April 2016, compared to April 2013. "Conservation must become a California way of life."