Early indications of California slipping back into pre-drought habits

SAN JOSE (KRON) - There's rain in the forecast, but despite that, summer is fast approaching, and this is no time to be letting our guard down about conserving water.

But some of us may be doing just that.

Water managers say there is no need to panic. Percolation ponds along Coyote Creek are still putting water into the ground, but there are some early indications that we may be slipping back into some old pre-drought habits.

"It's a major wakeup call," Santa Clara Valley Water District Chairman Richard Santos said.

Santos is talking about the statewide dip in water conservation in January of this year.

"We need to conserve," Santos said. "We need to do better. These are some little yellow flags that say we need to do more conservation."

The state water resources control board says that the amount of water saved by urban users, much of which goes for outdoor watering, has fallen in seven of the past eight months. Statewide, urban residents cut consumption by just .08 percent in January. That's well below the 20 percent reduction from Jan. 2017.

If that is a trend, the gains from last winter's record rainfall will be gone before we know it.

"True, but you can't keep going to the well, don't let that give you false hopes," Santos said. "We live in an arid climate. California is like a desert."

Compared with the baseline numbers from Jan. 2013, when the last drought began, Bay area residents still managed to cut water use by 6,9 percent in Jan. 2018.

That's less than half of what it was a year ago but much better than Southern California, where consumption increased by 3.9 percent.

Regardless of how much rain and snow is still to come this year, water managers will continue to call for a minimum conservation goal of at least 20 percent.

"Keep that bucket in the shower," Santos said. "Don't let it run all day. Put nozzles on it. There are so many things you can do. We need to stay proactive."

In the South Bay, where reservoirs and groundwater are still in fairly good shape, water managers say it is still way too soon to be talking about any new water conservation measures.

They say they'll make that call when it's done raining and snowing, and they find out how much imported water they are entitled to.



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