Water use in California fell by 27 percent in June, passing the conservation target set by Gov. Jerry Brown during the drought, regulators said Thursday, but not all cities in Merced County are hitting their targets.
Data released by the State Water Resources Control Board show 265 out of 411 local agencies hit or nearly reached savings targets.
The savings came during the hottest June on record, which would normally lead to an uptick in water use. Previous savings have occurred during unusually wet months.
Livingston fell well below its target of 32 percent, the board’s numbers showed. The city has conserved 3 percent.
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Atwater remained about a dozen percentage points under its goal with a savings of 24 percent.
The city of Merced is exceeding its target with conservation in June of 42 percent, while Los Banos was close to its mark with a 26 percent savings.
3 percentLivingston’s water savings in June, according to the State Water Resources Control Board
Gurpal Samra, Livingston’s mayor pro tem, said the numbers are skewed, because Foster Farms is the city’s biggest water user. He said the poultry producer uses at least of 65 percent of the city’s total.
The company has to follow regulations for cleaning and processing chicken, he said. So the company can only reduce its use by so much before it affects the bottom line. “There is no way around it,” he said.
Samra said he believes residents and other water users in the city are doing their part. “I’m willing to bet we’re very darn close (to the goal),” he said.
Foster Farms did not return requests for comment by press time.
Livingston has instituted the water-saving rules mandated by the state, such as two watering days per week and restrictions on water runoff.
Merced residents can pat themselves on the back as they play the biggest part in water conservation there, said Johnnie Baptista, public works water division manager.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is,” he said. “I think the general public is more informed.”
He said the city has cut back, but the residents as a whole make up the biggest savings in Merced. But, he said, July and August typically see the highest water use in any given year, so residents need to continue to conserve wherever they can.
“We’re not done yet,” he said.
The state report confirms figures previously released by California’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, showing strong water conservation.
The agencies that met or came within 1 percent of their mandatory water conservation target serve 27 million Californians.
“The June numbers tell a story of conscious conservation, and that’s what we need and are applauding today,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board. “We need to save as much as possible. That is water essentially in the bank for a future dry year or more.”
Brown previously ordered an overall 25 percent reduction in urban water use compared with 2013 levels. His administration gave each community nine months to hit assigned conservation targets as high as 36 percent.
We need to save as much as possible. That is water essentially in the bank for a future dry year or more.
Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the the State Water Resources Control Board
The water board says it will contact every agency that didn’t come close to its targets and ask for more information about what it’s doing to conserve. The worst performers will be told to ramp up water waste enforcement or limit the number of days residents can water lawns.
Water waste enforcement also shot up drastically in June. Agencies issued more than 9,500 penalties compared with about 1,900 in May.
June was the month conservation went from a polite request to a demand by the governor to let lawns go brown, take shorter showers and implement other measures. Programs in Southern California offering millions of dollars to residents who rip out lawns have been exhausted.
State regulators assigned conservation targets between 8 and 36 percent. Water savings are compared with 2013, the year before Brown declared a drought emergency.
Meteorologists say a wet California winter is increasingly likely as a strong El Niño condition builds in the Pacific Ocean, although it’s unclear if it will be a drought-buster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453,
Merced County conservation, by city
Percentage goals for June
- Atwater: 36
- Livingston: 32
- Los Banos: 28
- Merced: 36
Percent conserved in June
- Atwater: 24.1
- Livingston: 3.1
- Los Banos: 26.3
- Merced: 42