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Low Or No Water Conservation Targets 'Shortsighted'

Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio

Local water agencies in California now set conservation standards for their customers after mandatory statewide water regulations ended in May. Watering landscape in a way that causes runoff is still prohibited. (Photo: Sacramento yard July 2016).

Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio

California water suppliers are increasingly shifting to voluntary conservation targets for their customers. And, some water experts say the move may be premature.

With dwindling water supplies, California moved to an emergency mandatory statewide water conservation target of 25 percent, compared to 2013 use. 

But the State Water Resources Control Board ended those regulations in May. The May 2016 regulation, now in effect, started in June 2016 and continues through January 2017.

The new regulation requires local water suppliers to determine the conservation levels for their customers. Many of those agencies, including several in the Sacramento region, have moved to voluntary conservation targets.

"It's disappointing that in most places, the conservation target has been rolled back to zero percent," says Heather Cooley, Water Program Director for the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit water policy organization based in Oakland.

She calls the zero targets "shortsighted."

"Looks like we might have a couple of dry years going forward and any water saved now is water that can be left in storage, and that can be used next year or the following year to help us get through what are very likely to be more dry years," says Cooley.

Cooley says the shift by water agencies to voluntary conservation, with low or no targets, sends a mixed message to the public.

She adds that people in California will likely save more water this year, compared to 2013, with or without mandatory conservation regulations.

But Cooley says the savings "may not be as much as last year," during the mandatory statewide requirements.

070716 MANWATER-Cal Drought