More than 100 environmental justice, conservation, labor and climate groups sign letter urging California to prioritize water conservation

More than 100 non-profit organizations and other water advocates have signed on to a statement that urges California leaders to lean into conservation as the first line of defense against future droughts and unreliable precipitation patterns in this era of climate change.

Supporters of the statement range from environmental justice groups, including Clean Water Action, Community Water Center and Save California Salmon; conservation groups like the California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological Diversity; labor group LAANE; and climate advocacy groups like Climate Resolve.

“Too many underserved communities have been unable to access the benefits of existing conservation programs,” said Kyle Jones, Policy and Legal Director with the Community Water Center. “Solutions like direct installation of water-efficient appliances and drought-resilient outdoor landscaping provide multiple benefits at the community level while helping to keep water bills down for households. It’s both possible and essential to make conservation work for low-income communities and communities of color.”

The California Legislature passed two laws in 2018 to Make Conservation a California Way of Life, and Governor Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy calls for conserving at least 500,000 acre-feet of water every year by 2030. For context, 500,000 acre-feet is roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by the entire city of Los Angeles in a year or the amount of water that could be delivered by about nine new desalination plants similar to the Carlsbad plant.

“The groups that signed on to these principles recognize that investing in conservation, especially in urban areas, is the fastest and cheapest way for us to bring California’s water demand into balance with our increasingly unstable and unpredictable water supplies,” said Tracy Quinn, President and CEO of Heal the Bay and a longtime advocate for conservation. Quinn also serves as a Board Director of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the largest water supplier in the United States.

“The good news is, California has a tremendous untapped potential to reduce urban water use by 30 to 48 percnet if we make the most of water conservation and efficiency opportunities,” said Heather Cooley, Director of Research with the Pacific Institute. “And from now through 2026, water districts have an extraordinary opportunity to take advantage of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support these investments.”

Compared to other major water supply projects, like seawater desalination and recycled water, water savings from conservation improvements can be realized faster and with fewer environmental impacts. And conservation comes with a wide range of benefits, including reducing energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing habitat for native species, and lowering water bills for everyone – including low-income Californians.

“There are so many upsides to conservation,” said Martha Davis, board member with the Mono Lake Committee. “Thirty years ago, water conservation programs led by Los Angeles community groups helped save Mono Lake – one of our state’s most treasured natural areas – by reducing demand for imported water. Since that time, water agencies in many of the state’s urban areas have doubled down on improving their efficiency, but there still is so much more they can do. California needs more conservation – not less – now more than ever.”

For more information, go to conserve4ca.org.