The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced the monthly water conservation figures for August this week. Statewide, Californians used 5% less water than during the same month last year, up from 1.8% savings in July.
Zone 7 Water Agency and the Association of California Water Agencies take the drought and Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for 15% voluntary water conservation very seriously. We strongly support the governor's approach to statewide conservation that allows water managers to match local water supply conditions with conservation requests or mandates.
In March, months before Newsom's statewide call for conservation, Zone 7 asked its customers to voluntarily conserve 10%, and in July increased the request to 15% to align with the governor's call. On Sept. 1, the Zone 7 Board of Directors implemented 15% mandatory conservation as water savings consistently failed to meet the target throughout the summer months. Zone 7's water retailers have followed suit, implementing local drought measures to meet that target.
According to the data released by the SWCRB, water use in the Bay Area was reduced by 9.9% in August. Zone 7's internal data shows the Tri-Valley reduced its water use by 6% in August.
Zone 7, like water agencies across the state, is counting on our community to answer the call for conservation during these last warm months of the year when outdoor water use is still high and significant water savings can be had. Outdoor irrigation is 60-70% of a household's water use, and with water use restrictions newly implemented by our water retailers, we are hopeful that residents treat the drought with the seriousness it deserves.
At the same time, we recognize that conservation isn't the only tool to address the drought. To weather short-term droughts, Zone 7 has made significant investments in local and out-of-area groundwater storage. This enables Zone 7 to proactively store water from wet years to have it available in dry years. However, in prolonged periods of drought, these resources aren't enough, and conservation is a must.
Approximately 70% of the Tri-Valley's water is purchased and imported through the State Water Project (SWP). Due to the extremely low storage in the SWP system, Zone 7 only received 5% of its water allocation this year. If drought conditions persist, Zone 7 expects to receive very limited deliveries from the SWP in 2022.
To support the community with conservation efforts, Zone 7 has a Water Wise Wendy conservation campaign to help residents with outdoor water-saving tips. In July, reimbursement amounts for two rebate programs were increased and this month a new drought webpage was added to provide easy access to resources on local water use restrictions and drought information.
Much work remains for all Californians in seeing our state through this historic drought. Conservation is an important component, and Zone 7 is optimistic that the Tri-Valley residents will heed the call in the remaining months of 2021.
Editor's note: Angela Ramirez Holmes is the president of the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors. Steve LaMar is president of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).