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New Study Says Forecasters Are Overestimating Future Demand For Water

Water in a sink inside a bathroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.
Matt Hoffman
Water in a sink inside a bathroom at Lake Poway, Dec. 2, 2019.
A new report from the Pacific Institute suggests we have learned to conserve so well that water forecasters have radically overestimated the amount of water we will need in the future.

Californians have grown used to the idea that water is a precious commodity, one that we risk running out of without conservation.

A new report by the Pacific Institute suggests Californians have learned to conserve so well that water forecasters need to rethink their approach to estimating future water demand.

Sarah Diringer is a senior researcher with the Pacific Institute, which is a global water think tank based in Berkeley that works to develop sustainable water policies.

Diringer said conservation efforts, particularly during recent droughts, have resulted in consumers rethinking the way they use water. Also, technology has improved, making water use more efficient. Things like high-efficiency washing machines and low flow toilets have resulted in lower demand for water than predicted. Diringer said some water-use forecasts are as much as 20 or 30% over the actual demand.

The implications of this are that agencies could be spending resources now to build infrastructure that may not be needed. That could be affecting our water bills now.

Diringer said it is difficult to assess whether any resources that have already been built will be unnecessary, but she said it’s time for agencies to take into account changes in water use when making future plans.

Diringer said the research does not imply that Californians can stop conserving, but rather that they can save money in the future by conserving more since efforts to date have been more successful than predicted.