By Francisco Casillas |Staff Writer|
Californians have finally cut back on water consumption, according to a new statistics report released by government officials Tuesday.
According to the report released by the State Water Resources Control Board, overall state water usage shows a significant decline, cutting usage by 11.5 percent in August. This is equal to 27 billion gallons of savings, up from 11 billion saved in July.
However, areas in the South Coast region have had a smaller decline, with only a 7.8 percent decrease last month.
California residents experienced one of the hottest summers on record, exceeding temperatures over 100 degrees, which caused a record-breaking drought and new legislation by California officials.
This put the state in its third consecutive year of record drought. According to the report, state officials expected that at least 700 households had no access to running water as a result of the drought, and there could be hundreds more.
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency and asked Californians to reduce water consumption by 20 percent. Instead, water usage increased by 1 percent in May, according to the state survey.
New regulation, which took effect in August, enforced residents to limit their consumption by imposing fines up to $500 for watering residential gardens.
“There has to be a draw between voluntary and mandatory regulation,” said CSUSB geography and environmental studies professor, Dr. Jeff Hackel. “If there are limits set and an escalating penalty, then that will enforce limiting water usage.”
Regions such as San Bernardino are places that could expect severe consequences, where water consumption increased by eight percent in May compared to 2011 and to 2013’s average.
“We need more attention and nobody is taking action in our community,” said Monica Mojarro, a Business Administration student. “We must convince people to take action and lead San Bernardino and our colleges.”
California receives most of its water from a snowpack delivered by the 400 mile long Sierra Nevada, which acts as water storage during the winter months. During spring, the snowpack melts and provides water to more than 25 million people and the $44 billion agricultural industry.
But according to the survey from January, the snowpack holds only 20 percent of its usual storage.
This led to severe effects on lake reservoirs, whose levels have dramatically fallen due to both drought and over-consumption of water.
“I worry about utility prices in general. I think it would be huge if prices increased,” said psychology student Danna Cebreros. “Maybe if we invest in artificial turf, that would solve our problems.”
Scientists now predict that the chances of El Niño occurring is improbable.
“It’s hard to say. People are less optimistic as the chances keep coming down,” said Hackel. “Ultimately, scientists will confirm only when new data arrives.”
Efforts are being exhausted as Gov. Brown hopes to place a $7.5 billion water bond called Proposition 1 onto the ballot this November, pending voter approval. The proposition will contribute to water supply infrastructure.