202 drought maps reveal just how thirsty California has become

It doesn’t take much to understand why California is so worried about drought. Reservoirs are ever-dwindling. Rainfall is sporadic at best.

More than 80% of California is in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state’s condition isn’t expected to improve in the near future.

The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

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* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog

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California Water Use Is All Over The Map

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In posh parts of northern San Diego County, residents on average used more than 580 gallons of water a day in September. During the same month, Angelenos in less-affluent East L.A. used an average of 48 gallons a day, according to data that state water officials released Tuesday, which shows for the first time just how dramatically water use varies among California communities.

Hoping to increase conservation, the State Water Resources Control Board released estimates of residential daily water use per person in September, as reported by more than 300 urban water suppliers. The heaviest water users, the data showed, used more than 10 times as much as those who used the least.

Statewide, residents in some water districts used an average of more than 500 gallons per capita a day, while others used as little as 46 gallons. The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves residents in an affluent part of northern and coastal San Diego County, recorded the highest average, 584 gallons. Southland water users served by the Desert Water Agency and Coachella Valley Water District, both in desert areas, weren’t far behind, using more than 360 gallons per capita a day.

Two water distributors in San Francisco and one in East Los Angeles recorded the lowest average totals, 46, 46 and 48, respectively. In Santa Cruz, which has some of the toughest conservation measures in the state, residents used an average of 49 gallons per person a day.

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In Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills residents used 286 gallons per person daily, while Compton residents used only 65. Residents served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power used 93 gallons a day. About four-dozen water districts did not report per capita data.

Still, water officials and experts said the information will help water districts understand exactly how much residents use and identify areas for improvement.

“We’re hoping water agencies will look at this list and use it for self-evaluation: How are people in their area doing and how they can do better?” Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. “It’s not a report card; It’s an instructive thing.”

Experts said higher per capita water usage make sense in areas where lot sizes are larger and in hotter regions of the state where water evaporates faster. A recent UCLA study also found that household income is a primary driver of increased water use.

“If those communities that could do something haven’t done anything [to conserve], we’re missing a huge opportunity to work together as Angelenos,” said Miguel Luna, executive director of Urban Semillas, a community organization focused on food and water issues. “South L.A. and East L.A. have done their part. Now the affluent communities need to ante up.”

The new data come as Californians work to cut water usage to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of a 20% reduction statewide. Since May, the state water board has been reporting water usage reductions. Overall, Californians continued to use less water in September, but the reductions were more modest than in August. The board announced that statewide water consumption dropped 10.3% — about 22 billion gallons — in September, compared with the same month a year earlier. In August, water use fell 11.5% compared with August 2013.

Water officials and other experts have long maintained that Southern Californians have been aggressively conserving water for years, a factor they say accounts for the region’s smaller monthly usage reductions compared with other areas of the state. Many Northern California areas have reported steeper monthly cuts, but officials have warned against drawing comparisons because southern residents already use less water.

Tuesday’s data showed that, on average, Southern California residents used 119 gallons per person a day — the fourth-lowest average among 10 regions the water board tracked.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power saw an 8% decrease in water use in September compared with the same month last year after reporting a similar decrease in August. In a statement, DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said the September numbers show that DWP customers “continue to watch their water use and do their part during the drought.”

* via LA Times
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-1105-california-water-20141106-story.html

Water Use in California – Do Your Part In The Drought

Water Use in California – Analysis from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)

Water in California is shared across three main sectors. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban. However, the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins, and can be used again.

Sacto-River

Environmental water use falls into four categories: water in rivers protected as “wild and scenic” under federal and state laws, water required for maintaining habitat within streams, water that supports wetlands within wildlife preserves, and water needed to maintain water quality for agricultural and urban use. Most water allocated to the environment does not affect other water uses. More than half of California’s environmental water use occurs in rivers along the state’s north coast. These waters are largely isolated from major agricultural and urban areas and cannot be used for other purposes. In the rest of California where water is shared by all three sectors, environmental use is not dominant (33%, compared to 53% agricultural and 14% urban).

Agricultural water use is holding steady even while the economic value of farm production is growing. Approximately nine million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, representing roughly 80% of all human water use. Higher revenue perennial crops—nuts, grapes, and other fruit—have increased as a share of irrigated crop acreage (from 27% in 1998 to 32% in 2010 statewide, and from 33% to 40% in the southern Central Valley). This shift, plus rising crop yields, has increased the value of farm output (from $16.3 billion of gross state product in 1998 to $22.3 billion in 2010, in 2010 dollars), thereby increasing the value of agricultural water used. But even as the agricultural economy is growing, the rest of the economy is growing faster. Today, farm production and food processing only generate about 2% of California’s gross state product, down from about 5% in the early 1960s.

Despite population growth, total urban water use is also holding steady. The San Francisco Bay and South Coast regions account for most urban water use in California. These regions rely heavily on water imported from other parts of the state. Roughly half of urban water use is for residential and commercial landscaping. Despite population growth and urban expansion, total urban water use has remained roughly constant over the past 20 years. Per-capita water use has declined significantly—from 232 gallons per day in 1990 to 178 gallons per day in 2010—reflecting substantial efforts to reduce water use through pricing incentives and mandatory installation of water saving technologies like low-flow toilets and shower heads. Coastal regions use far less water per capita than inland regions—145 gallons per day compared with 276 gallons per day in 2010—largely because of less landscape watering.

The current drought exposes major water use challenges. In the Central Valley, where most agricultural water use occurs, the failure to manage groundwater sustainably limits its availability as a drought reserve. The increase in perennial crops—which need to be watered every year—has made the region even more vulnerable. In urban areas, the greatest potential for further water savings lies in reducing landscaping irrigation—a shift requiring behavioral changes, not just the adoption of new technology. Finally, state and federal regulators must make tough decisions about how and when to allocate water to the environment during a drought. They are faced with balancing short-term economic impacts on urban and agricultural water users against long-term harm—even risk of extinction—of fish and wildlife.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=6691

California drought: $500-a-day water fines passed

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Sacramento

Overwatering your lawn could now cost you $500 a day in parched California.

The State Water Resources Control Board approved unprecedented emergency regulations Tuesday that allow local law enforcement and water agencies to impose a maximum $500-a-day fine on water wasters.

The regulations were approved the same day state data showed water use statewide has increased 1 percent over the past three years, despite calls from Gov. Jerry Brown for Californians to cut their water use by 20 percent during the drought.

The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences released a study Tuesday that found the drought will probably continue through 2015, regardless of El Niño conditions. Brown tweeted that the regulations and study are a “reminder to Californians that there’s more work to do.”

The new restrictions bar residents and commercial water users from using drinkable water to hose off sidewalks and driveways, water lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, wash cars without a shutoff nozzle and using potable water in non-circulating fountains.

Fines for offenses are criminal penalties, similar to a traffic ticket.

The regulations will take effect Aug. 1. State regulators will also be able to fine urban water agencies $10,000 a day if they fail to implement water conservation plans, such as limiting the number of days people can water outdoor landscaping. The state board will require water agencies to track and report water use based on gallons per person per day beginning in October.

“The actions proposed by the board are reasonable and achievable,” said Tracy Quinn, policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We believe the board can go even further in prohibiting wasteful activities.”

B1 percent increase

A recently updated survey by the water board found residents were not cutting back as much as hoped, and some regions hadn’t cut back at all. Statewide, water usage is up nearly 1 percent when compared with the same period in the previous three years.

Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus called the survey results disappointing and said additional measures may be considered at a later date.

Southern California coastal cities increased water use by 8.4 percent, and the northeastern part of the state that runs from Oregon to Mono Lake saw a 5 percent increase.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento region and northern coastal cities saw the biggest declines in water use, cutting back 13.5 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively. The Bay Area cut water use by 5 percent.

Marcus said too many people in the state don’t realize the impact the drought is having. They don’t see the fallow fields, the loss of jobs and the wells that are going dry, she said. The state’s two largest reservoirs – Lake Oroville in Butte County and Lake Shasta in Redding – are at just under 40 percent of capacity with at least three more dry months remaining.

“This is the prudent thing to do,” Marcus said. “If it rains, it will still be a good exercise. We all will be so happy it rains that we won’t mind if anyone is angry at us.”

Businesses worried

Owners of companies that perform pressure-washing services expressed concern about the effect the regulations would have on their industry if commercial uses were not excluded from the restrictions. Board members changed language so that power-washing streets and buildings are allowed. That alleviates concerns that San Francisco’s current practice of washing streets would be prohibited, while sidewalks could still be washed because of a health and safety exemption.

Some water agencies said they preferred a tiering system to pricing where those who use more are charged more instead of intermittently citing those who are caught breaking water rules.

The proposed restrictions target only outdoor watering – versus indoor showering and toilet flushing – since most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors and it’s easier to enforce and detect.

* via SFGate
http://m.sfgate.com/science/article/State-water-board-expected-to-OK-500-a-day-fines-5623907.php