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California trying to cut water, but is it working?

Published July 26, 2014 11:39 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Los Angeles • When Gov. Jerry Brown called on everyone from residents to businesses in California to curb water usage by 20 percent, he told state government to lead by example.

Six months after his emergency declaration, many agencies and departments can't say whether their efforts to conserve water are sufficient because few have been comparing how much water they are using this year to last.

Here are five things to know about how state agencies are faring as they try to use less water:



CUTS NOT MANDATORY, BUT HAPPENING

Brown's emergency declaration in January didn't make conservation mandatory and there's no penalty if state agencies fail to comply. Still, it's clear that agencies are trying.

One easy way to conserve is to limit — or eliminate — landscape irrigation. Agencies with large campuses, such as the Department of State Hospitals, said such cuts were an important source of savings.

Another obvious source of waste is leaky pipes and faucets. The California State Prison in Sacramento, which loses about 50,000 gallons of water per day due to leaks, is replacing underground pipes. Several other prisons are doing the same.

DATA DILEMMA

Tracking water usage across dozens of agencies and departments in a California government that is larger than that of many countries can be a complex task. Each agency has dozens, hundreds or even thousands of separate accounts for the utilities that serve their buildings. Some are billed monthly, some every two months, some every quarter. Further complicating comparisons, water is measured in various units: gallons, cubic feet and acre feet.

SCANT ACCOUNTING

Of the 11 high-use agencies that The Associated Press requested water data from, only four were able to provide gallons used for the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014 for all the facilities they manage. Agencies are not required to track this year's usage until early 2015, so it falls on each agency's own initiative to gauge their conservation efforts in real time.

ANSWER IMPOSSIBLE?

Exactly how much water state agencies are using may never be known for sure. That's because the state gets meter readings for buildings it owns — not always for leased or rented sites. The Employment Development Department, for example, provided the AP data for 26 sites it owns, but did not have water usage data on the dozens of other sites where it administers unemployment insurance, collects payroll taxes or compiles labor market statistics.

FEWER EASY CUTS

Even before the current drought, state government had instituted water conservation measures. Because some waste already had been eliminated, finding more savings may be tougher.

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Contact Matt Hamilton at https://twitter.com/matthjourno.

 

 

 

 

 

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