In August 2015, Californians reduced urban water consumption by 27 percent compared to August 2013 after Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 25 percent cutback. The government removed the mandatory cutbacks earlier this year because of the improvements.
In August 2016, conservation rates were at 17.7 percent, about 10 percent lower than the previous year. California is still very much in a drought, and many cite a lack of conservation as a major ongoing issue.
California has attempted to manage the drought by enacting policies such as the California Water Action Plan and encouraging conservation among its residents. The state recently released a new conservation plan that focused on cities and took climate change into consideration. Officials expect to adopt the new plan in January.
Several emergency regulations have been put in place, including a ban on watering lawns and hosing off driveways until 48 hours after it’s rained. City water providers must also now report their monthly water usage to the state and create plans for navigating long periods of drought.
The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Drinking Water has begun monitoring water systems in order to identify areas that may need emergency drinking water. The agency then helps affected communities through grants and technical assistance.
Californians have also turned to technology, such as drones, to help mitigate the water shortage. The state has budgeted $3 million for analyzing aerial images. These images, combined with other data, will help officials set conservation targets that are specific to individual communities. Researchers from California State University at Fresno and AeroVironment, a drone manufacturer, are also kicking off a study into how these images can improve water conservation on almond farms.
Behind these high-tech strategies lies the same persistent message of conservation. One major aspect of the government’s messaging has been making water conservation a lifestyle, as opposed to a temporary fix. Experts have offered plenty of tips about how to make that lifestyle a reality.
Some tips for in the home include:
- Install high-efficiency toilets and showerheads
- Fix leaks. This can save 110 gallons per month
- Turn off water when brushing your teeth or shaving. This can save a surprising 10 gallons per person per day
- Wash only full loads of clothes and dishes
Some tips for in the yard include:
- Plant only native species. They require less water
- Plant drought-resistant species
- Set mower blades to 3 inches. This encourages deeper roots, which can save 16 to 50 gallons per day
- Fix leaks in sprinklers
As the unprecedented drought continues, some of the conservation measures put in place have become permanent per an executive order from Gov. Brown. Amid worries about climate change, Brown has said Californians should prepare for drought and water conservation to be a part of everyday life.