This year our key indicator is water. That means we will be highlighting ongoing issues about conservation efforts, water supply, and how we assess our water usage levels throughout the year.

Water is required in many aspects of our daily life – everybody is affected. Climate change is changing our traditional weather patterns. We are currently struggling with a severe drought that is forecasted to persist, in various cycles, on a long-term, inter-generational scale.

This year has seen the lowest amount of snowpack in the Sierra Mountains since 1977. “We’re looking at historical lows,” said David Rizzardo, the chief of snow surveys and water supply forecasting for the Department of Water Resources. “You go into the winter hoping that (the drought) doesn’t get worse, but I think it’s undeniable at this point that it’s going to be worse…However you slice and dice it, we’re at or below the driest year.” –

If one is to look at the big picture, water is a civilizational challenge on a global scale. It is a resource that must be cared for with long term planning. Measuring and accounting for how we use water is key to managing our resources responsibly. We also need a cultural shift in how we regard water as a precious resource. We must all do our part and use less water. So how are we doing so far?

As you can see in this graph, the voluntary conservation rate is well below the 20% rate requested of the state’s citizens by Gov. Jerry Brown. Although in recent years conservation efforts have succeeded at reducing water use, we rarely meet this 20% target conservation rate. For example, Capital Public Radio recently reported that we are conserving less than we were. After a 22% conservation rate in Dec 2014 (compared to water use in 2013) we declined to an 8.8% conservation rate in Jan 2015. “It’s hard to sustain a sense of urgency and emergency for a longer period of time… But unfortunately we don’t have a choice. We have to redouble the efforts collectively, all of us because water conservation is an area where the individual decisions add up.” –


The above graph displays where we get our water from. It shows you that the vast majority of our water comes from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission – from the Sierra Mountain snowcap. And where does this data come from?

In this case, the data on county-wide water consumption comes from the Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency. From their website: BAWSCA is a regional water district utility and “designed by the State Legislature to help protect the health, safety and economic well being of 1.7 million residents, businesses and community organizations in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who depend on the San Francisco Bay Area regional water system.” They also prepare a lot of raw data from various sources that Sustainable San Mateo then analyzes to create a user friendly indicators report.

The following image is on page 20 of a report prepared by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on November 2004 (The Wholesale Customer Water Demand Projections Technical Report). It gives you a good idea of the pipeline of data sources that are processed to generate accurate reports.


Be sure to join us for our SSMC Indicators Lunch & Launch on Thursday, Apr 30, 2015 at the Sobrato Center Redwood Shores. The event will featuring new indicators and expert speakers on our 2015 Key Indicator: Water. Sign up for our mailing list for updates and check for current indicators.