The worsening drought in California has called attention to a hodge-podge monitoring system that does not accurately measure water usage across the state.
A survey taken in May found that water usage was up drastically in some areas, such as Santa Ana. A closer look at usage, however, shows that the city’s consumption was up 10% rather than 60%, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Also, water agencies self-reported their data, causing discrepancies. While a 5% decrease in usage was reported statewide, water use had actually increased 1%. One reason was that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power initially left the data for May blank, when L.A. actually had a 9% increase.
The state is planning its first mandatory survey later this year. But officials doubt the accuracy, as many water customers in the Central Valley farming region as well as parts of Fresno and Sacramento don’t have water meters.
California recently approved mandatory restrictions and fines of up to $500 a day for wasting water, but much of the state still relies on voluntary conservation.
“It’s not going to be a huge change from what we already have,” Kevin Pearson, media relations officer of the Eastern Municipal Water District told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. The eastern district has voluntary measures in place for the 768,000 people in western Riverside County.
Los Angeles has limited outdoor watering to three days a week since 2009, but is increasing enforcement of its conservation ordinance. It also recently raised its cash-for-grass rebate to $3 a square foot to encourage native plantings in place of water-dependent lawns.