Net Positive 2050 : Water

Water Consumption in the Bay Area, Jan 2014 - Jan 2015


The graph represents the gross volume of water in million gallons used on a monthly basis for the nine Bay Area counties over the course of a year, from January 2014 to January 2015.  Information was compiled by the California Water Control Board with data sourced from Urban Water Suppliers. By isolating data for regional water suppliers, graph indicates that up to 93% of the Bay Area population is serviced by water suppliers. Any discrepancy is largely attributed to smaller suppliers that are not required to submit data to the California Water Control Board.

According to the Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, over ~66% of the region’s water supply is sourced outside of the Bay Area, primarily from the Hetch Hetchy water system and the Sacramento-San Jaoquin Bay Delta watershed. The prolonged drought is taxing regional water supplies to the extreme, and is causing local water districts to wrestle for scarce resources among a byzantine patchwork of competing agencies as well as various uses of water (eg. agricultural vs residential use).

Major drivers toward Net Positive water goals:

SSV’s Net Positive Bay Area initiative calls for the Bay Area to be able to source 100% of its regional water demand from local sources within the bay by the year 2050. With two-thirds of the water supply currently sourced from outside the region, SSV anticipates the reduction in water consumption to require an aggressive combination of water conservation and reuse. In California, regional water supplies are shrinking over time during prolonged periods of extreme drought, resulting from both the unprecedented loss of annual snowpack and rainfall that feeds into the Hetch Hetchy water system and the depletion of local underground aquifers. The major drivers in reducing regional water consumption require short-term emergency stop-gap measures to limit water use and encourage conservation, while the development of guidelines on water reuse for long-term resource management will also be critical:

1) Short-term policy to aggressively limit water use and encourage conservation goals

  • Emergency restrictions placed on water use due to extreme drought:

    • CA Executive Order in April of 2015 extended the State of Emergency proclaimed in January of the same year due to severe drought conditions

    • State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) imposed a 25% mandatory reduction in potable urban water usage to 2013 levels, with indoor water use limited to no more than 55 gallons a day

    • Water Board also imposed restrictions to curtail or prohibit irrigation of outdoor lawn and turfs in commercial, industrial and institutional properties; will update Landscaping Ordinance to increase water efficiency standards

  • Urban water suppliers encouraged to develop rate structures and other market-based pricing mechanisms to maximize water conservation

    • State rebates and grants made available

  • Increase enforcement and penalties to discourage water waste

  • Policies encouraging water conservation and education

2) Long-term water resource management

  • Set up guidelines for implementation of water reuse:

    • Ordinance, permitting, safety monitoring, construction and zoning

    • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a model

  • Require better coordination and communication among water suppliers and agencies

  • Increase public education on water conservation, including non-potable uses

  • Curtail or eliminate grandfathered senior water rights and wholesale agricultural water usage

What is needed to get to the 2050 Net Positive goals (100% locally sourced water):

  • Water recycling: Recognize that all locally available water will be recycled, and increase public awareness through education regarding its safety and uses

  • Diversify regional water supplies: Diversification requires a comprehensive diversity of sources to increase water resiliency, long-term supply management and sustainability

  • Conservation and water management: Beyond the goal of 25% reduction in urban potable water use, other means to increase water supply or alter its end uses should be considered. Onsite non-potable water recycling systems and the development of other outside sources should be considered as key to holistic water management strategies

  • Monitoring: The use of smart meters and better technology should provide quantified information on water usage, conservation, and enforcement statistics

  • Investment in new technologies: new water management technologies should be deployed, including desalination, onsite reuse systems, water-use monitoring software, irrigation system timing and precision technology, and on-farm precision technology


Page author:    Lisa Hearn

Dashboard:    Water Consumption

Last update:    May 2015