In posh parts of northern San Diego County, residents on average used more than 580 gallons of water a day in September. During the same month, Angelenos in less-affluent East L.A. used an average of 48 gallons a day, according to data that state water officials released Tuesday, which shows for the first time just how dramatically water use varies among California communities.
Hoping to increase conservation, the State Water Resources Control Board released estimates of residential daily water use per person in September, as reported by more than 300 urban water suppliers. The heaviest water users, the data showed, used more than 10 times as much as those who used the least.
Statewide, residents in some water districts used an average of more than 500 gallons per capita a day, while others used as little as 46 gallons. The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves residents in an affluent part of northern and coastal San Diego County, recorded the highest average, 584 gallons. Southland water users served by the Desert Water Agency and Coachella Valley Water District, both in desert areas, weren't far behind, using more than 360 gallons per capita a day.
Two water distributors in San Francisco and one in East Los Angeles recorded the lowest average totals, 46, 46 and 48, respectively. In Santa Cruz, which has some of the toughest conservation measures in the state, residents used an average of 49 gallons per person a day.
In Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills residents used 286 gallons per person daily, while Compton residents used only 65. Residents served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power used 93 gallons a day. About four-dozen water districts did not report per capita data.
Still, water officials and experts said the information will help water districts understand exactly how much residents use and identify areas for improvement.
"We're hoping water agencies will look at this list and use it for self-evaluation: How are people in their area doing and how they can do better?" Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said. "It's not a report card; It's an instructive thing."
Experts said higher per capita water usage make sense in areas where lot sizes are larger and in hotter regions of the state where water evaporates faster. A recent UCLA study also found that household income is a primary driver of increased water use.
"If those communities that could do something haven't done anything [to conserve], we're missing a huge opportunity to work together as Angelenos," said Miguel Luna, executive director of Urban Semillas, a community organization focused on food and water issues. "South L.A. and East L.A. have done their part. Now the affluent communities need to ante up."
The new data come as Californians work to cut water usage to meet Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of a 20% reduction statewide. Since May, the state water board has been reporting water usage reductions. Overall, Californians continued to use less water in September, but the reductions were more modest than in August. The board announced that statewide water consumption dropped 10.3% — about 22 billion gallons — in September, compared with the same month a year earlier. In August, water use fell 11.5% compared with August 2013.
Water officials and other experts have long maintained that Southern Californians have been aggressively conserving water for years, a factor they say accounts for the region's smaller monthly usage reductions compared with other areas of the state. Many Northern California areas have reported steeper monthly cuts, but officials have warned against drawing comparisons because southern residents already use less water.
Tuesday's data showed that, on average, Southern California residents used 119 gallons per person a day — the fourth-lowest average among 10 regions the water board tracked.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power saw an 8% decrease in water use in September compared with the same month last year after reporting a similar decrease in August. In a statement, DWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said the September numbers show that DWP customers "continue to watch their water use and do their part during the drought."
Times staff writer Ryan Menezes contributed to this report.