California Cities Squeezed Out More Water Savings Again in July

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Urban Californians stepped up to the plate again in July, beating Governor Jerry Brown's statewide mandate for 25 percent water savings.

"We've got a lot of people hitting home runs,"  said Felicia Marcus, who chairs the State Water Resources Control Board, and is sometimes referred to as California's "water czar."

Across the state, urban water agencies cut total water use by 31.3 percent, compared to July in  the benchmark year of 2013.

State officials conceded that freak July rains probably helped the cause, as some homeowners turned off lawn and garden sprinklers, at least temporarily.

Hover over the dots to see July conservation numbers:

Water Board staffers  called out a few Bay Area cities for their standout performance, including Menlo Park, which has effectively halved its water use since May, and San Francisco, which has whittled its daily use down to an average of 40 gallons per person.


On the flip side:

"We've got a few people who are striking out or not able to find the ball park," said Marcus, rolling with the baseball metaphor, "and we need to focus on them."

Most of the laggards continue to be in the Southland, especially in more arid regions. But Water Board officials said only four agencies in the state missed their assigned savings quotas by more than 15 percentage points. The quotas, or "tiers," range from 4 to 36 percent. No agencies have yet incurred fines for missing their marks.

June was the first month in which water agencies had to meet their assigned conservation quotas and the numbers showed that most of them stepped up to the challenge. About four out of ten urban water suppliers cut their water use dramatically, by 30 percent or more.

About a third of water districts, 140 in all, fell short, mostly in Southern California.

Listen to the story:

Overall, Californians saved 27.3 percent in June, compared to June of 2013, exceeding the 25 percent statewide mandate issued by Governor Jerry Brown on April 1. A year prior to that, Brown had called for a 20 percent cut in water use through voluntary action and the results were hugely disappointing, yielding less than half that in savings.

The Brown mandate applies only to urban water use, which includes most commercial and industrial applications. Urban water consumption accounts for about 10 percent of the total water used by Californians. Agriculture, which takes by far the biggest slice, is under a different system of restrictions.

Map produced by Lindsey Hoshaw.