Home landscapes that feature more drought-resistant plants are becoming an important factor in reducing water use in the Sacramento region. Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com
Home landscapes that feature more drought-resistant plants are becoming an important factor in reducing water use in the Sacramento region. Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com

Water & Drought

Sacramento region cut water use by 23 percent in April, report shows

By Phillip Reese and Dale Kasler

preese@sacbee.com

June 01, 2015 10:12 AM

Sacramento-area residents cut their water use by 23 percent in April compared with 2013, the greatest monthly reduction this year but still less than state-mandated conservation targets that took effect Monday, according to the Regional Water Authority.

California regulators last month unanimously adopted emergency drought regulations that for the first time require tens of millions of Californians and tens of thousands of businesses to sharply reduce water use.

The cuts fall hardest on the Sacramento region and other parts of inland California, which historically have been heavy water users during the searing summer months. Ten of the Sacramento area’s 23 large water districts must cut usage by 36 percent. All but two must cut usage by at least 28 percent.

The Regional Water Authority, which represents two dozen water providers in the Sacramento region, issued conservation data Monday for the entire region, as well as five local agencies with the largest reductions. The State Water Resources Control Board will release statewide April conservation figures Tuesday, including those for the city of Sacramento and other area water agencies.

The April numbers released Monday represent an improvement over March, when Sacramento-area water use fell by 11 percent compared with 2013, and February, when water use was down by 15 percent. The April figures will not count toward conservation targets, which apply to water use from June through February compared with the same months in 2013.

Local water officials said they hope the strong April performance will carry over into the summer, when it is needed most. A large proportion of the region’s water use happens during hot, dry months, when lawn sprinklers are running.

“There is more water to save,” said Amy Talbot, Regional Water Authority’s water efficiency program manager. “I think it is a good indication – we are increasing the percent we did from last month. We know what the targets are and we are going to do our best to meet them.”

May also could prove to be a good month for water conservation. Temperatures were generally below average throughout the region, reducing the need for outdoor irrigation, though rain in the Central Valley was scarce.

“Our numbers are in for May,” said Tom Gray, general manager of the Fair Oaks Water District. “We are going to be even better.”

Fair Oaks customers must cut water use by 36 percent over the next nine months. They reduced use by 28 percent in April and, according to Gray, by about 40 percent in May.

Fair Oaks officials plan to visit all 14,000 Fair Oaks customers during the next two weeks, Gray said. They will knock on doors, hand out information and do a quick, informational check for water waste. “We are essentially shutting down the office and we are going to pretty much hit it,” he said.

California American Water customers cut their water use by 30 percent in April. The district serves several Sacramento suburbs, including parts of Rosemont, Antelope and Rancho Cordova. It has a program that pays its customers to replace grass with drought-resistant plants.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said California American spokesman Evan Jacobs. “Since the beginning of 2013, everyone in the Sacramento region has really sat up and paid attention to water conservation.”

The biggest savers

Water agencies that reduced the most water use in the region in April:

Agency

Reduction

City of Woodland

33%

San Juan Water District

32%

California American Water

30%

Fair Oaks Water District

28%

Sacramento County Water Agency

28%