California’s emergency drought conservation rules took effect Monday — and statistics released by state water managers on Tuesday show the state has a long way to go to achieve the statewide 25 percent mandate set by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Statistics presented to the State Water Resources Control Board(and embedded below) show a 13.5 percent cut in water consumption in April 2015 compared with the same month in 2013 — the year the state is using as its baseline for calculating water savings. Those numbers were reported by the 400 or so water agencies that serve the state’s residential and industrial customers.

Although the April 2015 number is well short of the 25 percent overall conservation level that became law this week, there’s good news in the report: The 13.5 percent cut is the second-best monthly performance since Brown requested voluntary conservation last year.

The report showed that the state’s top conserving area was the North Lahontan hydrologic region, in sparsely populated northeastern California, with 37.5 percent less water used per resident in April 2015 compared to April 2013 consumption. The North Lahontan was followed by the Sacramento Valley (23.7 percent reduction), North Coast (23.4 percent), San Joaquin Valley (19.9) and the Bay Area (19.9). The lowest level of savings was seen in the South Coast, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, which saw a cut of just 8.7 percent.

The community with the highest rate of conservation: Susanville, in Lassen County, which used 56 percent less water in April than it did two years ago. Bay Area water districts on the list include Livermore, Morgan Hill, Pleasanton, Benicia and Hillsborough.

In terms of the communities with the stingiest water use — the lowest consumption per resident — the statewide prize goes to Lake Arrowhead, in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. The 22,000 or so people served by the community’s water district use there used 30.1 gallons per day each in April. For comparison’s sake, the statewide per capita average is 91 gallons a day and the highest use in the state, in super-wealthy Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County, is 426 gallons per resident per day.

As good as Lake Arrowhead’s consumption number sounds, it’s skewed a little because it’s a resort community without a year-round population. Reported per capita water consumption there is typically very low because all the district’s customers are counted whether they’re using water or not. In fact, April’s 30.1 gallons is a jump of more than 30 percent from its March consumption of 22.6 gallons per resident per day.

The water board report shows six of the state’s 10 lowest-consuming water districts — on a per resident per day basis — are in the Bay Area or just next door: Martinez, East Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, San Bruno, South San Francisco, and San Francisco.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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