Why has water conservation in California been a bust so far?

Nearly a year after Governor Gavin Newsom called for Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15% amid an increasingly severe drought, the water conservation figures still fall short.

Now, as millions of people across Southern California face unprecedented water restrictions starting next month, some water experts say much broader cuts, such as those imposed ordered by former Governor Jerry Brown during the last drought, was necessary to awaken the state from its false sense of water security.

“Even during the last drought, when Governor Brown asked for voluntary cuts, we didn’t respond,” said Heather Cooley, research director at the Pacific Institute, a water research organization. in Oakland, said. “We really need to move towards the imperative. It really sends a signal that we are all in this together and that everyone needs to do their part. “

Between July — when Newsom urged Californians to cut water use by 15% — and February, cumulative statewide water savings came to just 5.8 percent of the 2020 baseline.

Northern California water counties, which began experiencing severe shortages last year, have gone to great lengths to conserve. The Marin City Water District cut usage by 28.5% after local reservoirs began to dry up, forcing the water supplier to move into Phase 4 of its drought contingency plan.

The North Coast region also reduced water use by 14.5% and the San Francisco Bay area by 10.5%.

But in Southern California, which had ample reserves last year, the story was very different. In the South Coast hydrology, which is home to more than half of the state’s population, water use fell only 4.6% over the same period, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity saved only 2.6%. .

Some water districts have even increased their water use significantly, with El Segundo reporting 44.6% more water since last July.

El Segundo officials say that increase is related to the catastrophic flooding at LA’s Hyperion Mining Plant in July. After debris clogged filters at the Playa del Rey plant, industrial customers who normally use recycled water for cooling had to, said Elias Sassoon, El Segundo’s director of public works. use potable water for several months.

After California experienced its driest periods ever in January, February, and March, leaving the State’s Water Project supplies worryingly low, County officials Metropolitan Water in Southern California has announced unprecedented restrictions that will begin next month. While Cooley said the move could serve as a “wake-up call” for many, it remains to be seen whether the state can change course.

Experts have offered many reasons for California’s lackluster conservation efforts.

In some spots, the climate was drier than usual, prompting Californians to water their lawns and gardens more often than usual at the start of the year.

Cooley and others say the lack of mandatory statewide restrictions on water use, such as those ordered by Brown two years after the last drought, are to blame.

Others say there is a psychological aspect that comes with dealing with drought over a long period of time.

“We’ve been talking about drought for a long time, even though we’ve had a brief period,” said Kelly Sanders, a professor of environmental engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. People are “becoming sensitive to the severity of drought. You don’t hear people talking about it as much as in 2015 and 2016.”

The chance that your water supply is cut off is also “less tangible” than if you had a power outage, Sanders said.

However, experts say the statewide 15% target is achievable.

There are still opportunities to reduce water usage long-term, Cooley says, such as replacing older appliances that use more water than those on the market.

Research by the Pacific Institute shows that urban water use can be reduced by an additional 30% simply by applying current standards for water efficiency of appliances. This includes repairing leaky pipes and replacing washing machines and toilets.

Cooley adds that investing in what’s considered “leading advanced technology” can increase water savings by 48 percent.

Officials are also targeting lawns as one of the biggest culprits of unnecessary water use.

James Nachbaur, director of research, planning and performance, said: “The State Water Resources Control Board is considering a moratorium on lawn irrigation for industrial, commercial and institutional properties such as schools and hospital, “where that lawn serves no functional purpose. at the state water conservation agency.

This won’t affect individual homeowners, parks or other areas where people are actively using the turf, Nachbaur said.

Many water providers across the state also offer various discounts for replacing lawns with drought-tolerant gardens or standard sprinkler systems with drip irrigation, which uses less water. from 20% to 50% compared to the nozzle. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity has offered $3.00 per square foot of turf for up to 5,000 square feet as of 2019.

Changing the landscape remains a “relatively easier way” to become more efficient in our use of water than addressing domestic water use, which has declined over time in California and continues to continued to decline, Nachbaur said.

Although progress on water conservation has been slow so far, Nachbaur believes that the actions of water management and local suppliers, as well as the increased messaging campaigns, build on each other and are “intensifying.” more cumulative awareness of drought”.

MWD has approved a nearly $11 million media campaign in the hope of getting people’s attention amid a “dizzying” news cycle, according to the board’s chief executive. , Deven Upadhyay.

However, there is a cultural resistance to these kinds of changes, experts say. Lush green lawns and spacious yards are certainly objects of American obsession, trademarks of home ownership and the subject of scrutiny by homeowners associations, curious neighbors and similar things.

“For a very long time, we’ve been telling people that you can have whatever plants you want,” Sanders said. “We’re going to have to get used to a landscape that seems a little more native in Southern California and its current climate, you know. The duration of large green lawns can be limited. “

Times staff writer Hayley Smith contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-05-07/why-has-water-conservation-in-california-been-a-bust-so-far Why has water conservation in California been a bust so far?

Edmund DeMarche

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button