We got the word a month or so ago that EBMUD, our water utility district, was instituting emergency mandatory water rationing. Single-family homeowners were asked to reduce their water usage by 19%. Today an article in the SF Chronicle reports that water usage has only dropped by 4%, not the 15% overall drop that EBMUD was looking for. The article reports that there is a conspicuous lack of brown lawns in the bay area, indicating that perhaps people are not really making a full effort. (And keep in mind that this is the very environmentally-conscious San Francisco bay area we're talking about!)
It's hard to say why people might not be taking the call to conserve seriously. When the mandate from EBMUD was first issued, the Chronicle reported some people saying things like, "I'm not giving up my pool!" and indicating that they would probably just go ahead and pay whatever penalties they get charged with. I've heard of people in some of the posher areas of the east bay having water bills as high as $1000 (before water rationing or any penalties--that's just their regular usage). My water bill is typically about $52 every two months. A few times it's gone as high as $60. My usage runs from a low of 47 gallons/day on average during this year's rainy season, to a high of 84 gallons/day during last year's dry season. A 19% reduction would mean I'd have to bring my average daily usage during this dry season down to 68 gallons--not impossible, but challenging. But I have to say it annoys me to no end that I should have to scramble to cut back another 16 gallons when there are so many water-hogs who just can't be bothered with cutbacks at all.
Last year I smothered the front lawn and put in mostly drought-tolerant plants. I mulched and I've cut back watering to about every three days--about the most I can cut back given my sandy soil without plants really suffering. In the back, which is also lawnless, I hand-water about every three days, and for those plants that need a little extra (tomatoes, roses, and new seedlings) I collect water from the kitchen sink and bathroom to provide an extra dose. It will be interesting when I get my next water bill to see if this has had any impact at all.