California’s investor-owned water utilities (IOUs) have joined their public agency counterparts in helping the state conserve water and manage the drought, according to an analysis by the California Water Association (CWA).

CWA reviewed monthly water production figures reported to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and found many IOU districts to be consistently at or above the state average for water conservation:

  • In November, 31 of California’s IOU districts were at or above the statewide water conservation average of 9.8 percent compared with the same period in 2013.
  • Of these 31 districts, 13 were above 20 percent and 25 were above 15 percent.
  • In October, 28 were at or above the statewide water conservation average of 6.7 percent.
  • In September, 30 were at or above the statewide water conservation average of 10.3 percent.
  • In August, 24 were at or above the statewide water conservation average of 11.6 percent.

“Customers are doing an outstanding job conserving water and deserve to be congratulated,” said CWA Executive Director Jack Hawks. “As California faces a fourth dry year, water IOUs are committed to continuing their partnerships with customers to support the governor’s call for continued conservation.” According to Hawks, equally significant is the fact that all IOUs are on schedule with the 2009 state law requiring a 20 percent reduction in per capita water consumption by the year 2020.

Hawks hopes news organizations, policymakers and customers recognize and appreciate that all conservation results matter, not just those exceeding 20 percent. While the reported monthly water production figures are an indication of conservation, they are not a perfect correlation. Many factors beyond a utility’s water production are part of the conservation equation, including precipitation; temperature; evaporation rates; population growth; population density; economic activity; residential lot size; income levels; and utility water rates.

“This is why it is difficult, if inappropriate, to compare usage rates and water production figures across regions, utilities and water suppliers,” Hawks said.  “The reality is that a community reducing water use by 9 percent, but having a residential water use of 79 gallons per capita per day (GPCD), is every bit as responsible as a community in a different part of the state that reduces use by 30 percent, but has a 187 residential GPCD.”

The community with the 9 percent reduction will have a new GPCD of 72, while the community with the 30 percent reduction will have a new GPCD of 131. “Both communities deserve credit for being responsive to the Governor and to the SWRCB’s emergency conservation regulations,” Hawks said.

On February 27, 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) passed a resolution requiring its largest regulated IOUs to comply with the governor’s emergency drought proclamation and the call for a voluntary 20 percent water use reduction statewide. In response, these water companies activated their drought management plans and, soon after, appealed to customers to voluntarily reduce their water use.

Subsequently, when the SWRCB approved its emergency regulation in July 2014, imposing mandated outdoor water use restrictions, the CPUC issued a second resolution directing its regulated IOUs to comply with the SWRCB’s prohibitions as well as notify their customers individually of the new restrictions, including the possibility of fines for non-compliance.

Beyond the drought, IOUs are fully engaged in comprehensive, ongoing water efficiency programs with their customers as outlined in the CPUC’s 2010 Water Action Plan, which identifies water efficiency as a top priority.

The state’s largest IOUs have signed memorandums of understanding with the California Urban Water Conservation Council, committing to implement their best management practices for water conservation and water use efficiency. And they are well on their way to meeting California’s mandate to reduce per capita urban water use 20 percent by 2020.

Their incentive programs help customers use water efficiently and are among the best in the state. They include:

  • Audits by and consultations with trained water efficiency experts who offer tailored information on how customers can use less water at home or work.
  • Rebates for installing high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, upgrading water-wasting sprinklers and controllers and replacing thirsty lawns with beautiful, low-water use plants.
  • Education through workshops and events, informational materials, outreach to schools and water-wise demonstration gardens.

Hawks noted that all IOUs in the state are working hard to balance their water supply portfolios with customer demands in managing the drought, while maintaining the necessary stability in revenues to ensure future supply for their customers. “The regulated IOUs are pleased their customers have engaged in the statewide effort to minimize water use during the drought,” Hawks said, “and they’ve done so knowing that reduced water consumption puts pressure on the revenues required to maintain high levels of safe, reliable, high-quality water service.”

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