The wet winter season might have cut down on Lathrop’s ability to maintain its ability to exceed the 25 percent water use reduction it was shooting for.
But that changed in March.
According to numbers that the city submitted to the California Department of Water Resources, Lathrop used 30 percent less water in March of 2016 than they did in March of 2013 – the baseline year that cities across California are being judged on as they impose restrictions on watering in order to help curtail California’s massive drought.
Lathrop used 64.75 million gallons of water in March, down from 93.84 million gallons during the same time span in 2013. Unlike in previous months they delivered no door hangers to residences that they found to be in violation of the city’s watering policy, and no penalties were assessed to homeowners during that same time frame.
While Lathrop turned in better than required numbers for the hot months through last summer, the reductions tapered off in December and January of this year when the weather cooled – even though residents still used less water than they did when compared to the target years.
The State of California is requiring that cities curtail water usage by 25 percent in order to thwart a fifth consecutive year of massive drought. The El Nino system that was expected to batter California and replenish reservoirs has in some respects done just that – delivering a better than average annual rainfall.
But most of the snowpack increases that will play a critical role when the weather warms up are located at points further north in California – which fares well for federally managed waterways like the Central Valley Project, which delivers water to Southern California.
The Department of Water Resources has already announced that they would allocate more water to the State Water Project this year – ticking up to 60 percent of the annual total thanks to a wet March that soaked Northern California. The problem, however, is that the San Joaquin Valley was largely spared, as was Southern California, and there have been portions of California that have seen groundwater wells running dry.
By using conservative models – planning as if the next winter season will be dry – California water managers are hoping to prevent misusing the water that appears in abundance in some of the larger reservoirs out of fear that they won’t be replenished if dry weather patterns return in 2017.