Monterey Peninsula Too Busy Congratulating Itself on Saving Water to Actually Focus on Saving Water


Plenty of warm days and beautiful sunsets, but not enough rain

Local officials have been arguing for years that there is little more the residents of the Monterey Peninsula can do to conserve water because they already use less water per capita than anyone else in the state. Back in November, we noted that this simply wasn’t true. We pointed out that our local Cal-Am service area actually ranked 68th in the state in per capita water use.

Just a few days after our November post, the State Water Resources Control Board released, for the first time ever, tables comparing California’s many water systems on the basis of the per capita use of residential customers alone. These figures were only for the month of September 2014, but with commercial customers removed from the mix, the Monterey Peninsula fared much better, tying East Palo Alto for seventh place overall.

The October and November figures, when released, showed similar good, but hardly state-leading, conservation figures. But the December figures, released in February, placed the Monterey Peninsula only a fraction of a gallon behind first place Arcata and, if you round to the nearest gallon, in a three-way tie for first with Arcata and Big Bear Lake.

Needless to say, local officials did the rounding and declared that, at 33 gallons per person per day, Monterey Peninsula residents really are the greatest water conservationists in the state. This incredible water saving achievement was widely reported in the local press.

But, since then, the officials and press have been strangely silent. No one seems to have sent out any press releases or written any self-congratulatory articles concerning the January and February reports. And there’s a reason for that.

In January, Monterey Peninsula residents used an average of 52 gallons per day, dropping us into a ten-way tie for 32nd place. We didn’t even take first in Monterey County. Troubled King City took that honor at 41 gallons per person per day. Even traditional Southern California water wasters like Bell Gardens and Compton did better than the Monterey Peninsula.

In February, we again used 52 gallons per person per day, but as a second dry month caused others to slip, we improved our position slightly, finishing in a six-way tie for 29th. Again, King City, at 45 gallons per person per day, used the least water per resident in Monterey County.

The March figures won’t be released until May, but it’s clear we haven’t started 2015 in a particularly impressive fashion. Even the 33 gallons per person per day we averaged in December looks less impressive when you recall that in 1977 Monterey Peninsula residents, without nearly as many water saving appliances as we have today, reduced their water use to just 30 gallons per person per day. And not in an especially wet December, but in months of severe drought.

If we’re ever going to achieve the kind of conservation we’re truly capable of, we’re going to have to give up the delusion that we’re already the state’s champion water savers, and focus on making the boasts of our public officials a reality.

Until our failings start receiving as much publicity as our successes, this seems unlikely to happen.

Access the SWRCB reports here.



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