Does Every Drop Really Count? An Inconsistent Accounting of California’s Water Supply

December 2015

California Water Law & Policy Reporter, Volume 26, Number 3

During the recent drought, it has been frequently said, that “every drop counts.” Indeed, the emphasis on accounting for all losses to the state’s water system is highlighted by the recent enactment of Senate Bill 555, which requires urban retail water suppliers to conduct annual “water loss audits” to identify water that is escaping the system and identify steps that will be taken to stem such losses. (Water Code § 10608.24(a).) According to the bill’s author, Senator Lois Wolk, “[I]t is estimated that we could save hundreds of thousands of acre-feet this way. Every drop counts.” Emphasis on a proper and full accounting of the state’s water supply is indeed a worthy goal. However, a system-wide review of the state’s water use reveals that not every drop of water in California in fact counts in the same way.

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