Despite a Worsening Drought, Californians are Consuming More Water

This story has been updated to correctly state current Valley Water restrictions.

Californians are consuming water at higher rates, despite a dry winter that’s accelerating a third straight year of an historic drought, ignoring pleas from Gov. Gavin Newsom for additional conservation.

In March, water consumption increased statewide by almost 19% over March 2020, said Marielle Rhoderio, a research data specialist with the State Water Resources Control Board.

The March increase was the highest statewide increase the state has seen, Rhoderio said during a news briefing Tuesday.

Additionally, from July 2021 to this April, Californians reduced water use by just 3.7% despite Newsom's July 2021 request that residents reduce consumption by 15%.

The increase in consumption correlates to the dry, warm conditions experienced in March, which saw just 30% of average precipitation and temperatures 3.6 degrees warmer than average, according to Western Region Climate Center data presented during the briefing.

“This month was a lot drier and hotter and I think the numbers are quite telling,” Rhoderio said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report from May 3 shows that 92% of California is in a "severe" drought and about 40% of the state experiencing “extreme” drought conditions.

“We've been really driving toward a regional approach in partnership with local agencies,” said Lisa Lien-Mager, a spokesperson for the California Natural Resources Agency. “A lot of local agencies are setting new targets, implementing drought contingency plans.”

Many local water agencies have already implemented restrictions.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District board voted April 12 to limit watering lawns and landscaping to no more than two days per week and never water during the warmest parts of the day.

Also, the East Bay Municipal Utility District mandated a 10% water use reduction compared to 2020 and set a limit of roughly 1,646 gallons of water per day for households, which could face fines for ongoing over-use, and has limited outdoor watering to three times per week.

“We also recognize we've made a lot of progress so far in embracing conservation as a way of life,” Lien-Mager said. “We're going to have to double down and make the most of our limited (water) supplies. We have to go further to adapt to the new normal.”

The latest surface water storage data from the Department of Water Resources shows that while two of the state's 17 major reservoirs, the relatively small Folsom Reservoir and New Bullards Bar, have above average amounts of water for this time of year, many are well below average.

For example, Oroville is at 55% of capacity, which is 70% of its average storage level, Lake Shasta is at 40% of average, Lake Sonoma is at 37%, New Melones Reservoir is at 38% and San Luis Reservoir is at 46%.

Additionally, the most recent statewide survey shows that California's snowpack is only 22% of normal for this time of year.

Following the driest three months to start a year in the state's history, Newsom on March 28 issued an executive order calling on local water agencies to implement additional portions of their state-mandated “Water Shortage Contingency Plans,” which trigger restrictions on irrigation.

He also directed the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on watering grass at businesses and institutions.



  1. Why conserve? The more you conserve, the more the utilities will look to increase rates and fixed charges (to make up the lost revenue) – SJ Water is doing this now.
    You might as well get your money’s worth and enjoy the water.

    This may be a blessing in disguise by forcing the ‘woke’ politicians to actually put any CA budget surplus into infrastructure and sustainability – the faster & bigger the problem becomes a crisis – the more likely there may be some real effort to provide water resource options for CA.

    DEM Failed Policies coming home to roost…
    “….you CANNOT CONSERVE your way out of a Drought…”

    CA Politicians across the board have done little to improve water infrastructure, supply and resources since the ’70s – hence the crisis continues.

    But, Politicians are quick to approve more dense housing, more poverty level population growth, welfare handouts to the non-productive, transients and homeless, without concerns for limited resources.

    The only resource Politicians see as ‘Unlimited’ are Tax Dollars they can steal from the hard working residents.

  2. Yet…building continues…Homeless populations still expanding via migration to receive ‘free-stuff’…
    Massive ‘sink-holes’ are on the horizon due to decades of pumping precious ground water from miss-managed aquafers…And…Brain-dead-Biden blames Republicans for everything ‘inflation-related’.

    But, let us look on the bright side…we are in the initial throes of a recession.

    David S. Wall

  3. When residents do the responsible thing and conserve water they are punished.
    CA politicians will continue to squeeze the responsible law abiding citizen,
    but let criminals loose to repeat crimes and let vagrants camp & pollute public and private spaces – destroying both natural & community environments for residents.

    (April 2022, KTVU) CA Senate Passes Lower Water Standards
    “CA’s current standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons per person per day.
    Last year, a study by state regulators found the median indoor residential water use in CA was 48 gallons per person per day, or WELL BELOW the current standard.

    The CA Senate voted 28-9 (April 21) to lower the standard to
    47 gallons per person per day starting in 2025; and
    42 gallons per person per day beginning in 2030.
    The bill’s vote by a comfortable margin is a sign the proposal has the support necessary to pass to law.

    And in March it was reported that:
    “San Jose Group Fights Water Company Over Rate Hike” (SJS, 25Mar2022)

    San Jose Water Company (SJWC) is waiting for the commission to
    approve a 13.35% RATE HIKE on its customers, RETROACTIVE to Jan 2022.

    The utility also wants to change the way customers are charged.
    Right now, 54% of a customer’s bill covers how much Water they USE.
    The remaining 46% reflects the Fixed Connection Charge.
    That means if a person conserves water – like using a low flow toilet and letting their lawn die
    – they can theoretically cut down a significant part of their water bill.

    SJWC wants to flip the ratio.
    According to records filed with the CPUC, the proposal would result in
    customers paying 55.4% for Fixed Connection Charges and
    44.6% water usage charges.
    This will give SJWC a more stable and predictable stream of revenue,
    but it will make it harder for customers to save a buck by conserving water.

  4. This is nothing more than sensational reporting that doesn’t explain the increase in water use. To better understand water conservation efforts you look at trends over 8-12 months period. Comparing March 2022 to any other year is just silly. Jan-March 2022 has been the driest on record.

  5. Have you (or state/local officials with oversight and coordination responsibility) considered that the messaging may not be getting out /getting out consistently across the state—so residents can do their part? This includes basic situation, mandates, and requirements..

    Also, what communications channels are being relied upon to get the messaging out?

  6. Hilarious. They expect self entitled selfish rich people to contribute to following the rules? People live here DONT care, they all come from some other state or city. Also they have the mindset of “I can buy or pay through anything I want”. The sad part is in their heads its not an issue until it directly effects them. Never under estimate the power of denial.

  7. I don’t think the effort has been put in to inform the public like was done previously. In the earlier drought, it seemed to me there was a major communications effort to get people to let their lawns go dry or replace with native plants, flush less, and generally reduce, including at businesses. It seems like no real efforts at state, county and local levels have been done this this time to get the word out.

  8. Since the vast majority of water consumption in California goes to agriculture and water run down rivers into the ocean to support various fish species, it does seem everyone is preaching to the wrong choir. The average homeowner can’t really move the needle on this problem. We need to first address the two dominant users of water.

  9. Getting serious about water means public ownership and control of the water, its storage, its distribution, its recycling and its reuse. San Jose, as usual, can take a lesson from the City of Santa Clara who have managed to consistently reduce primary water usage in the city despite its continued population growth. The city owns its water utility, its sewer utility and its recycled water utility and the distribution system for these. Santa Clara began their water recycling and reuse program in 1987 with recycled water now accounting for 17% of all water sold in the city and for 72% of the water used by the municipal government itself.

    While not cheap, this system makes maximal use of existing water supplies. As with their excellent electric company, they have cut out the profit-taking middlemen in favor of increased user value (;;; Santa Clara’s publicly-owned utilities generate high levels of user satisfaction, lower tax burdens on residents, good-paying jobs and surplus revenues for the city that allow it to maintain superior services, amenities and infrastructure, as well as fiscal stability.

  10. It doesn’t seem the Environmentalists & Eco-alarmists think this Drought is a problem yet.
    Oh well – maybe our elected officials can try to make us more European and shift to weekly or monthly showers. Of course our SanFran expert “Stock Market-timer”, Nancy Pelosi, has us paying for Peloton Equipment & Programming for all of congress – is she trying to boost up the value of her Peloton Stock position?

    ABCnews (13May2022) “Agency Unanimously Rejects California Desalination Project”

    A CA coastal panel rejected a long-standing proposal to build a $1.4 billion seawater desalination plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water as the state grapples with persistent drought that is expected to worsen in coming years with climate change.

    The state’s Coastal Commission voted unanimously to deny a permit for Poseidon Water to build a plant to produce 50 million gallons of water a day in Huntington Beach, southeast of Los Angeles.

    Poseidon’s long-running proposal faced ardent opposition from environmentalists who said drawing in large amounts of ocean water and releasing salty discharge back into the ocean would kill billions of tiny marine organisms that make up the base of the food chain along a large swath of the coast.

    “The ocean is under attack” from climate change already, Commissioner Dayna Bochco said.
    “I cannot say in good conscience that this amount of damage is OK.”

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