Residents and businesses in about a dozen cities and water districts in the North Bay made deeper cuts in their water use this summer than the average savings achieved by residents statewide, new data released this week show.
The six Sonoma County cities that reported water usage totals to the state — a new requirement amid the historic drought — all said consumption by household and commercial customers was down by 8 percent or more in July compared with the same month last year. The statewide conservation rate in July was 7.5 percent.
Santa Rosa led Sonoma County cities, reporting a cutback of more than 14 percent, while the Valley of the Moon Water District led the county in water savings, reporting a 15.8 percent reduction in water use.
Dan Muelrath, general manager of the Valley of the Moon district, said the agency’s 23,000 customers achieved a 19 percent water cutback in August, coming close to Gov. Jerry Brown’s call in January to reduce consumption by 20 percent.
“They get the message,” Muelrath said, referring to a conservation marketing campaign by the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership, a collaborative effort by the Sonoma County Water Agency and the nine local water utilities it supplies.
Santa Rosa, with about 51,700 residential and commercial water customers, reduced consumption by 14.2 percent in July, even as the month’s average temperature was 68.6 degrees, two degrees warmer than in 2013.
Jennifer Burke, deputy director of water and engineering services, said Wednesday that in August the city recorded a 17.3 percent cutback from a year earlier.
“We’re very thankful our community is doing its part,” Burke said.
In August, Santa Rosa adopted a mandatory 20 percent water use reduction plan that limits lawn watering to the hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and prohibits washing of paved surfaces, among other rules.
The city plan includes no fines for excessive water use, but it has deployed six “water cops” to look for violations and ultimately can shut off water service to a noncompliant customer, Burke said.
Cotati, Sebastopol and Cloverdale did not report savings totals to the state because the cities fall below a customer threshold that triggers the requirement.
Ukiah did not submit a report to the state but cut use by 20 percent in July, according to Tim Eriksen, city engineer and public works director.
The figures were based on reports from 362 of the 414 urban water suppliers required to file monthly water use reports for the first time in mid-August. Only 44 agencies reported conservation gains over 20 percent in July, data show.
California’s 7.5 percent drop in urban water use in July represented more than 17 billion gallons of water, enough for 1.7 billion people each to take a five-minute shower, the state Water Resources Control Board said in a press release issued this week.
“While this initial report is an improvement, we hope and trust that it is just a start,” Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state water board, said in a written statement. Californians “know that we still are facing a drought that may be far from over,” she said, adding that “wasting precious potable water today imperils our communities’ future.”
Urban use accounts for 20 percent of California’s water consumption, while agriculture consumes nearly 80 percent.