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Report: California can't say if it's meeting drought goal

  • In this photo taken July 24, 2014, Russ Lake, a field inspector for the California Department of Transportation, right, looks over a remote water management controller just installed by Lionel Flores along Highway 4 in Stockton. Flores, who works for Takehara Landscaping, an irrigation contractor hired to oversee the irrigation systems along the Caltrans maintained roads in the area, was replacing a unit that had been destroyed during a car accident. From these control units, Caltrans can monitor water flow from a central office looking for excessive water usage caused by leaks or breaks in the system.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LOS ANGELES — The sprinklers outside the California's state Capitol are off and the lawn is withering, the lemon- and cucumber-infused "water stations" at the state pension building are gone, and prison inmates are taking shorter showers while campers at some popular parks can't take them at all.

In ways big and small, the state government is conserving water to try to meet Gov. Jerry Brown's request that everyone — from residents to businesses to state agencies — reduce their use by 20 percent.

Still, six months after Brown declared a water emergency, few state agencies know whether their conservation efforts are meeting the mark. They are not required to compare water consumption this year to last, and few have, The Associated Press found.

The AP asked the 11 agencies or departments that use the most water how their consumption over the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2013.

Only four could provide comprehensive data for water use in buildings they manage, in some cases taking several weeks to produce the information. Others pulled a smattering of utility bills from a few sites only after being contacted — data they acknowledged was not sufficient to gauge the effectiveness of conservation efforts.

One of the largest water users, the California Department of Transportation, provided 2014 data for water accounts in four cities and one county, and couldn't provide any 2013 numbers. The agency has more than 7,500 accounts.

"Obviously, we have quite a bit more data to review," spokesman Mark Dinger emailed.

The agency believes it will meet or exceed the governor's target, Dinger said.

The lack of accounting by Caltrans and other agencies is another example of how the state is struggling to keep track of water use. A recent AP story detailed how state regulators do not know how many trillions of gallons have been diverted by corporations, agricultural concerns and others that have "senior water rights" entitling them to free water.

With California in the grip of its worst drought in a generation, Brown declared an emergency on Jan. 17 and asked residents and agencies to trim usage. There is no penalty for failure to comply.


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