Report: State Water Conservation Rate Declines, Despite Continued Drought

Water conservation efforts in the state leveled off in September after a steady rise since May, according to a new report presented to the California State Water Board on November 4.

Report Findings

The water conservation rate climbed to 11.6% in August, a substantial increase from 7.5% conservation in July and 4% in June. But for September, the conservation rate dropped to 10.3%, which worries State Water Board members as despite recent rains, California continues to be in a drought.

The report also found that in September, 87% of the water agencies reporting had instituted outdoor water use restrictions, a six percentage point increase from the August reporting period.

Outdoor water use restrictions are a key requirement for urban water suppliers under the Emergency Water Conservation Regulation adopted in July because outdoor watering accounts for as much as 80% of urban water use in some areas.

An impressive 18 billion gallons of water was saved in July, 27.6 billion gallons was saved in August, and 22 billion gallons was saved in September. Collectively that’s about enough water to supply a million Californians for an entire year.

Reporting Requirement

The data report, part of a new mandatory requirement under the Emergency Water Conservation Regulation, estimates the monthly daily water use per person reported and conservation data for nearly every community water system statewide.

The reporting requirement, residential gallons per-capita per day (R-GPCD), covers 398 urban water agencies (96%), representing 35.5 million Californians.

The R-GPCD report will be provided to the State Water Board every month, along with total water conservation data. The staff is preparing a water conservation workshop within the next 90 days to explore what, if any, additional conservation measures should be adopted if the drought continues.

Daily Water Use

Water use in the state varies widely by hydrologic region, according to the R-GPCD data. At the low end, the San Francisco Bay region averaged 85.2 gallons per person per day. On the high end, the Colorado River region averaged 251.9 gallons per person per day.

The R-GPCD is useful for tracking water use by an urban water supplier’s residential customers and can help determine whether water supplier actions, such as irrigation restrictions, rebate programs, and rate design changes, are effective.

The State Water Board staff cautions that the data should not be used to compare water suppliers, or even hydrologic regions, unless relevant factors are taken into account, such as population density, population growth, temperature and evaporation rates, topography and socio-economic measures, such as lot size.

To view the complete R-GPCD report, visit


In his January 17, 2014, Emergency Drought Proclamation, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. called for Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20%.

Current forecasts indicate that California will not experience sufficient rains this winter to alleviate the drought.

The Emergency Water Conservation Regulation will be in effect until April 25, 2015 and may be extended if drought conditions persist.

To learn about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought, visit