Visualizing California's Dynamic Urban Water Use

During June-August 2016 many utilities lowered their conservation levels compared to the summer of 2015 when the state mandate was in effect.

In June 2016, utilities were allowed to adjust their state-mandated conservation goals if they could self-certify reliable water supplies to satisfy their needs for another 3 years of drought. This visualization explores how water conservation levels changed in response to these adjustments.

As can be seen in the plot, most utilities did not achieve the same conservation levels in 2016 after the mandate was lifted as they did in 2015 when the mandatory water use restrictions were enacted.

*Conservation levels in both 2015 and 2016 are computed with respect to 2013 baseline water production.

During June-August 2017, many utilities continued the conservation backsliding trend, but this seems to be slowing down compared to the rapid backslide seen in 2016.

In April 2017, following a very wet winter, California Governor declared the drought over.

As shown in this plot, despite the end of the drought, some of the momentum gained in conservation efforts remains. This could be partly due to structural changes, such as local policy changes, water use efficiency gains and the removal of lawns, but public awareness about the drought is likely an important driver as well. Californian's seem to be on their way to a future that recognizes drought as a new normal.