Amid Drought, Here's Where California Really Uses Its Water

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California TOday

As it endures a historical drought, the authorities is considering imposing $500-a-day fines for wasting water.

Soumya Karlamangla

Dec. 10, 2021, 8:32 a.m. ET


A metropolis  h2o  conservation specializer  checking retired  a resident’s sprinkler strategy   successful  Sacramento.
Credit...Max Whittaker for The New York Times

For Californians inactive clinging to the story that we’re not successful the midst of a terrible drought, a brutal world awaits.

With a adust wintertime projected for overmuch of the state, California officials are considering fines of up to $500 a time for overwatering yards, hosing down driveways and other water-wasting actions. The state’s h2o committee could enforce the penalties arsenic soon arsenic adjacent month, erstwhile they travel up for a vote.

You whitethorn beryllium wondering: What astir mandating shorter showers? Fewer toilet flushes? Using the dishwasher lone erstwhile it’s full?

There’s really bully crushed those measures aren’t atop the water-saving list. While in-home conservation doesn’t hurt, a bulk of California’s residential h2o — arsenic overmuch arsenic 80 percent of it — is utilized outdoors.

Take this example: When California was slammed with an atmospheric storm successful precocious October, galore of america skipped watering our lawns. After months of h2o savings of nary much than 5 percent compared with past year, Californians’ h2o usage successful October dropped to 13.2 percent beneath the complaint successful October 2020, according to caller authorities data. While inactive abbreviated of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 15 percent target, it’s the closest we’ve come.

“This leap successful h2o savings we saw crossed the authorities tin exemplify conscionable however overmuch h2o tin beryllium conserved erstwhile we’re not irrigating outdoors, adjacent for conscionable portion of the month,” said Charlotte Ely, who presented the savings data to the State Water Resources Control Board this week.

Half of California’s yearly h2o usage is considered biology water, meaning it flows done protected rivers oregon supports wetlands successful wildland preserves, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The different 50 percent is for quality usage — 40 percent for agriculture and 10 percent for municipality use, divided betwixt indoor (drinking water, showers) and outdoor (lawns, washing our cars).

But the comparatively warm, adust upwind successful California tips the scales toward outdoor consumption. Plants rapidly evaporate water, truthful keeping them greenish is much water-intensive than successful different parts of the nation, said Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences astatine the University of California, Davis.

“Our per capita h2o usage rates are much, much, overmuch higher than they are backmost east, wherever they person rainfall successful the summertime,” Lund told me.

While the mean Californian uses astir 110 gallons of h2o a day, a idiosyncratic successful Massachusetts, for example, consumes connected mean astir 65.

And it’s not due to the fact that vigor makes america portion much water. Every day, the mean quality consumes 1 gallon, possibly two, Lund told me. So astatine most, that’s 2 percent of our full h2o usage.

Lund pointed to the water-saving occurrence of Healdsburg, a municipality successful Sonoma County that was facing a terrible shortage this year. In June, officials banned residents from watering their lawns and yards.

Since then, the city’s h2o usage has fallen by 50 percent.

For more:


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  • Mandatory composting: Starting successful January, California volition statesman requiring that excess nutrient beryllium tossed into greenish discarded bins (rather than the trash) truthful it tin beryllium composted, The Associated Press reports.

  • Theranos trial: Lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes person concluded their defense.


  • Weed capital: With enactment from A-list investors similar Jay-Z, West Hollywood is vying to go the Amsterdam of the acold West, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Transgender lawsuit: A transgender pistillate won a colony successful a civilian rights suit filed against an El Cajon gym, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

  • Parental guidance: A parent has been criminally charged for her relation successful her daughter’s sports-related assault, The Associated Press reports.

  • Gang crackdown: San Bernardino constabulary officers arrested 180 radical successful the takedown of a thoroughfare gang, The Associated Press reports.

  • L.A. superintendent: Alberto Carvalho, the person of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, was selected to beryllium superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, The Los Angeles Times reports.


  • Weather warning: Parts of the San Joaquin Valley and Indian Wells Valley could acquisition temperatures arsenic debased arsenic 22 degrees starting Friday night.

  • Covid-19 blistery spot: Fresno County’s coronavirus hospitalization complaint is 8 times greater than San Francisco’s, California Healthline reports.



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Today’s question extremity comes from Peter Lautz, a scholar who lives successful Chula Vista. Peter recommends:

“The locomotion on the astonishing cliffs astatine Montaña de Oro State Park on the cardinal California coast, astir 15 miles westbound of San Luis Obispo. Sea otters thrust the surf beneath and wildflowers abound — a genuinely magical spot of serenity and wildness.”

Tell america astir your favourite places to sojourn successful California. Email your suggestions to We’ll beryllium sharing much successful upcoming editions of the newsletter.

The champion actors of 2021.

An yearly tamales party, New Year’s successful Palm Springs oregon an bid of Ikeda’s pies for Christmas meal — what are your Golden State vacation traditions?

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Missed the sunset past night? No worries.

This clip lapse captured a spectacular dusk astatine a Pacific beach. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading. I’ll beryllium backmost connected Monday. Enjoy your weekend. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Talk, talk, talk, speech … (3 letters).

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