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Water use jumps in dry, inland Southern California

In the Coachella Valley, water officials have budgeted supplies for individual customers, lowering those budgets and increasing the cost of excessive water use to encourage conservation during drought.
Coachella Valley Water District
Coachella Valley Water District offices.

Numbers released today by the State Water Resources Control Board show that water use ticked up statewide in June, compared to the same months in 2015 and 2016.

But while the state as a whole registered modest gains (5 percent), the Colorado River region — which encompasses dry inland areas in San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial and San Diego counties — saw water use leap twenty percent. That figure was considerably higher than in any other region in the state.

The South Coast region, which includes coastal Southern California, posted a more modest gain of five percent from the previous year. In June, South Coast residents used less than half the water Colorado River residents did,  — 98.6 gallons per person per day compared to 202.4. 

About half of the state's population lives in the South Coast region. And some districts serving local cities, including Los Angeles, Irvine and South Pasadena, reported less water use per capita this year than in June 2016.

Per capita daily water use across California

Region June 2016 gallons June 2017 gallons  Change from 2016
Central Coast 80.4 84.5 5.1%
Colorado River 169.9 204.2 20.2 %
North Coast 85.8 74 -13.8%
North Lahontan 133.8 139.7 4.4 %
Sacramento River 163.3 170.7 4.5 %
San Francisco Bay 79.3 84.1 6.1 %
San Joaquin River 138.1 143.8 4.1 %
South Coast 94.4 98.6 4.4 %
South Lahontan 145 136.3 -6.0 %
Tulare Lake 167 183.6 9.9 %
Statewide  105 110.1 4.9 %

Data shows residential water use as reported to SWRCB

At the Coachella Valley Water District, which serves more than 300,000 people, consumption rose by more than 50 gallons per person per day from June 2016 to June 2017.

Katie Evans, who oversees conservation efforts at the agency, said the drought-busting winter has changed people's mindsets. "When the drought was in place and it was a constant barrage of messages, you couldn’t help but be concerned about your water use," Evans told KPCC. That changed when the drought was declared over in April, she said.

Evans cautioned against reading too much into a single months' numbers, saying the bigger picture continues to show reduced water use across the Coachella Valley.

That's the line from state officials as well, who stress that while water use has ticked up, it remains below the levels before the drought emergency was declared in 2014.