The water use statistics the city of San Diego released today tell us one thing: How conservation went in January 2010 compared to the same month last year.

That gives us a limited picture of the city’s conservation efforts. The campaign to cut consumption was already underway last January — Mayor Jerry Sanders had been urging residents to conserve for almost two years by then. So while conservation may have slackened this year — citywide use was up 1.5 percent this January compared to last — city residents are still using less water than they have historically.

The best way to understand last month’s numbers is by comparing them to the same months in 2005-2007. That’s before conservation efforts began. The San Diego County Water Authority is using that timeframe as the baseline for the 8 percent mandatory cut that the city must comply with.

Using that comparison, citywide use was down 9.6 percent in January compared to the historic January average, according to figures the Mayor’s Office gave me this afternoon. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Residential use was down 11 percent.
  • Business use was steady: It was up 1 percent.
  • Customers who have dedicated irrigation meters have cut consumption 26 percent.
  • The city government, the largest single user in San Diego, has cut its use 23 percent. So even though consumption increased this year compared to last year, it’s still much lower than it has been historically.

Also worth noting that January is a light water-use month anyway. Because it’s generally cool and rainy, demand is much lower than during hot summer months.


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