Coastal California residents use far less water than inland counterparts
SACRAMENTO — Residents in coastal communities use far less water than their inland counterparts but still find ways to cut back more, residential per-capita water use figures released for the first time Tuesday show.
The State Water Resources Control Board is collecting per-capita data to better target conservation efforts as farms go fallow and reservoirs dry up. Gov. Jerry Brown called on Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency in January.
Californians are being asked to let their lawns go brown and take shorter showers as the likelihood of drought conditions worsening rises. The data show big disparities in water habits.
Regional water use ranges from 84 gallons per person per day in the San Francisco Bay Area to 252 in the Colorado River basin, which includes San Bernardino and Riverside. The figures exclude industrial, agricultural and business water users.
Median per-capita water use is 131 gallons, according to estimates from 351 suppliers serving roughly 33 million Californians. Residents in California’s three largest cities, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, are using between 82 and 96 gallons a day.
In densely packed San Francisco with lawns relatively rare, residents use 46 gallons a day. In the wealthy 5,000-person community of Cowan Heights in Orange County, water use is more than 569 gallons a day.
“If you have a place with a really high per capita (water use) and use is flat, it raises the question of what’s going on,” said Max Gomberg, senior environmental scientist with the water board.
Cowan Heights, for example, reported just a 2 percent drop in monthly water use in September compared to the year before. A request for comment was not immediately returned from a Cowan Heights spokesperson.
Regions with the lowest per-capita water use, however, are reporting some of the biggest drops in monthly water use. The San Francisco Bay Area region decreased water use by 15 percent despite having the lowest per-capita consumption in the state.
Cities and local water agencies are required to report the figures under emergency regulations.