Conservation group concerned over easing of water restrictions

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Now that some of the tough water restrictions in California are being eased, a conservation group is sounding the alarm that we might be slipping back into our wasteful old ways.

At the Pacific Institute, an environmental research group based in Oakland call it drought fatigue; and define it this way. "Feeling sort of overwhelmed and not knowing what sort of actions you can take and really not knowing when you can stop taking it," Pacific Institute spokesperson Heather Cooley said.

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In May water usage in California was down more than 27 percent compared to 2013, even more than the 25 percent reduction ordered by Governor Jerry Brown last year. The state responded by lifting the mandatory restrictions earlier this year, and water use once again began to creep up. "We saw savings dip in June to about 22 percent," Cooley said.

Water suppliers like East Bay Mud are now free to set their own limits. Its reservoirs are 81 percent full and if water use stays where it is now, officials say they won't need additional restrictions for at least a while. "When we look back at our records from previous droughts, what we find is it takes typically years for that usage to go back up," East Bay Mud Andrea Pook said.

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People ABC7 News talked to at a Berkeley car wash agreed that the crisis may be temporarily over, but the drought is still with us. "I've been taught since my early life that we must conserve water no matter what," Xinou Sidi said.

"We think everyone has to wash their hair every other day and have a 10 minute bath. These things aren't necessary," Valerie Doyle said.

East Bay Mud and the Pacific Institute are in agreement that things like water saving lawns and plants, low flow toilets, and fixing leaks are still necessary things.

Click here to read more stories about the drought.
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