Total water usage in California cities and towns witnessed a less than one percent drop in February as compared to the same month in 2020, just a fraction of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s goal of urban water reduction by 15 percent, according to Yahoo! News.
Data released this week by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that as the state moves deeper into its third year of drought, Californians have yet to show significant progress in water conservation.
Joaquin Esquivel, chairman of the water board, told Yahoo! News that conservation should be a number one priority for Californians given climate change’s effect on “not just this drought but the increasing aridity in the West.”
Newsom’s July goal for Californians to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 15 percent has seemingly fallen flat on its face. Between July and February, the state has only saved 5.8 percent compared to the same months in 2020, down from 6.4 percent one month ago. While those figures are grim, they’re better than the initial response to Newsom’s plea last July, when Californians saved just 1.8 percent more water than in 2020.
In February, the San Francisco Bay Area showed the most progress, reducing water use by 4.6 percent. The South Coast region of Southern California—which contains 55 percent of the state’s population—only used 0.2 percent less water.
The Sacramento River and Colorado River Regions of California ended up using more water than they did in February 2020, with usage up at 6.7 and 3.2 percent respectively.
Last week, Newsom issued an order for urban water suppliers to push for more aggressive conservation measures, requiring them to activate “Level Two” of their local drought contingency plans to become better equipped for shortages. Additionally, the governor recommended that the state water board consider a ban on watering “nonfunctional” or decorative grass at businesses and other properties.
“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” Newsom previously said in a statement.
As it stands, the levels of some of the state’s largest reservoirs, from Shasta Lake to San Luis, sit far below average. In Sierra Nevada, the snowpack is currently a drastic 31 percent of its average.
“What we would normally anticipate being our wettest months of the year, we had historic dries this year,” Michael Macon, an environmental scientist, expressed to the water board. “We anticipate it only getting worse through the summer.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.