Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) customers reduced water use by a disappointing 3.6% in December 2015 when compared to the same month in 2013, marking the lowest monthly amount of conservation since Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating statewide water conservation.
Customers reduced water use 25% from November to December. However, it wasn't enough to make a difference over previous December usage, which is historically the lowest water use month of the year.
"We don't know if the poor performance is due to a lack of commitment by customers, a lack of understanding about appropriate water use during cool weather or perhaps complacency due to recent rains," said CVWD General Manager Jim Barrett. "We do know that everyone needs to do their part to help during this ongoing historic drought. Ignoring the statewide call to action is not acceptable."
The state is requiring CVWD customers to reduce overall residential water use by 36% each month when compared to the same month in 2013 or face penalties of up to $10,000 per day. In October, CVWD was one of four agencies to be fined $61,000, the cost of which will ultimately be paid by domestic customers.
"We are strongly urging anyone who hasn't yet changed their water habits to do so immediately," Barrett said. "Lush, green grass is no longer the standard in the Coachella Valley. It may be again someday, but during this drought emergency removing grass or allowing it to go golden are the best ways to reduce water use to the levels needed to meet the state's conservation mandate."
CVWD customers had been doing well with a rolling conservation average of 26.5% from June through November (the time period being judged against the state's conservation mandate). CVWD customers performed better than the statewide average for October and November, conserving 28% and 22% respectively. Since June, customers have saved 5.8 billion gallons of water. Unfortunately, it's still not enough.
To achieve 36% reduction overall, CVWD has asked customers to limit water use to 36% below their monthly outdoor water budget. Approximately 75% of customers are meeting this temporary drought budget each month, but everyone must meet it to be successful.
To encourage conservation, CVWD has focused efforts in three key areas: rebate and incentive programs; public outreach and education; and drought penalties and fines.
Rebate and incentive programs
CVWD's Board has approved $6.7 million in funding for conservation rebate programs this fiscal year, far surpassing previous budgets. Through these programs, customers have (since July 2015):
Public outreach and education
To help ensure customers understand the state's conservation mandate, the water-use restrictions, drought penalties and tips for reducing water use, CVWD has utilized a number of public outreach tools including:
Drought penalties and fines
CVWD customers who fail to limit outdoor water use to 36% below their monthly budget are subject to drought penalties. These penalties originally went into effect with July 2015 bills and were increased with bills starting Jan. 1.
State and local mandatory water-use restrictions are in effect, including prohibiting outdoor irrigation on Mondays and Thursdays through March 31. To date, CVWD has issued 15 fines starting at $50 and up to $200 for violation of water-use restrictions.
"CVWD is doing all it can to achieve the conservation mandate during this historic drought, but at the end of the day it's up to the customers to be successful," Barrett said.
For more information about CVWD's conservation programs and drought penalties, to report water waste or learn how to reduce water use, visit www.cvwd.org/CVsaving36.
The Coachella Valley Water District is a public agency governed by a five-member board of directors. The district provides domestic and irrigation water, agricultural drainage, wastewater treatment and reclamation services, regional storm water protection, groundwater management and water conservation. It serves approximately 108,000 residential and business customers across 1,000 square miles, located primarily in Riverside County, but also in portions of Imperial and San Diego counties.