California government says it's meeting water-saving goal

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State agencies in drought-stricken California reported that they met their own water conservation goal for 2014 despite early struggles.
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State agencies in drought-stricken California reported that they met their own water conservation goal for 2014 despite early struggles to track usage, data released Wednesday showed.

Just as Gov. Jerry Brown pushed homeowners, businesses and local governments to save water, his administration asked state offices, prisons, parks and construction crews to reduce consumption.

Inmates are taking shorter showers, sprinklers at state building have gone idle and vehicle fleets unwashed.

Overall, water use at state agencies fell 23 percent last year compared to 2013, according to data from the Department of General Services, which is helping coordinate the state's drought response.

Last year, Brown set a 20 percent savings goal for Californians— government, residents and businesses alike. Separate data show the private sector fell well short of that target.

Earlier this month, as the drought worsened, Brown turned what had been a voluntary 20 percent cut into a mandatory 25 percent reduction, causing outcry from some who believe the cuts are too deep.

“It's our goal to lead by example,” said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Department of General Services.

On Wednesday, the department released data on water use for 32 state agencies. Half met the 20 percent conservation goal, while half fell short.

Overall, water use fell from 19.4 billion gallons in 2013 to 14.9 billion gallons in 2014, according to the data. Caltrans, which uses water for everything from building new freeways to watering roadside vegetation, accounted for more than half of the total water savings.

Among the 16 agencies that fell short, four actually used more water in 2014. The state's wild land firefighting agency, CalFire, had the largest increase at 50 percent — from 88.5 million gallons to 132.5 million gallons.

A review last summer by The Associated Press found few departments had started tracking conservation efforts halfway through the year, and many that did not were not meeting the 20 percent target.

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