"This is the drought of the century"
(FRESNO, Calif.)—California cities cut water use by a combined 31 percent in July, exceeding the governor’s statewide mandate to conserve, officials said Thursday.
The strong water conservation figures show California residents are beginning to understand the dire need to cut back in a fourth year of drought, Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said.
“This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought,” she said. “This is the drought of the century.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered cities to use 25 percent less water. In June, the state conserved 27 percent, compared to the same period of 2013, the year before Brown declared a drought emergency.
Marcus said record rain in July played a role in the savings, causing people to leave their sprinklers idle. Enforcement and strong messaging by water agencies were bigger factors, Marcus said.
“We have a movement in urban California,” she said.
Regulators are turning their focus to communities failing to conserve, she said. They are making personal visits with local officials in cities that haven’t responded to the mandate by Brown.
The state water board was also expected to release water conservation figures for each community.
San Diego used 29 percent less water in July. The San Jose Water Co. used 38 percent less water, and Fresno reported conserving by 31 percent.
Officials have not yet issued fines to underperforming water agencies, but they can be as high as $10,000 a day. Marcus said she favors other methods to achieve California’s goals.
“I believe that peer pressure and the bully pulpit (are) going to be most effective,” she said.