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Information about water use can be presented many different ways. One basic but very useful indicator is per capita water use.

Simply put, per capita water use is a metric representing an individual’s share of a community’s average daily water needs. Sometimes it’s referred to as GPCD, shorthand for Gallons Per Capita per Day.

How is Per Capita Water Use Determined?

Per capita water use is calculated by dividing the total volume of public water produced daily by the number of people being served. In Santa Cruz, it takes an average of almost 9 million gallons of water every day to serve the regional population of about 93,000 people. That works out to 95 gallons per person per day.

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Santa Cruz per capita water use    


95 gallons per person per day

Where Does All That Water Go?

Surprised? It sounds like a lot of water – 95 gallons! That’s because it includes not only the water we use at home, but also water used at businesses includinindoor water use pie chartg restaurants, hotels, and office buildings; at community facilities like schools, parks, swimming pools, and hospitals; and for miscellaneous uses like fighting fires.

Most of it, about two thirds, or 61 gallons per person per day, is used at home. See the accompanying pie chart for a breakdown of typical residential use. Toilets, clothes washers, faucets, and showers make up the majority of indoor water use. About one-quarter of this amount goes to water landscapes and gardens.

How Does Santa Cruz Compare?

Per capita water use varies from place to place, depending on each community’s unique mix of land uses, weather, and other variables. Thanks to the combination of a strong conservation ethic and a mild climate, Santa Cruz has one of the lowest levels of per capita water use in California. At about half the statewide average of 192 gallons per person per day, it is among the lowest 6 percent of all California public water systems, according to the State Department of Water Resources.

How Is Per Capita Water Use Changing Over Time?

It’s been dropping over the last decade, for several reasons. Since 2000, per capita water use in Santa Cruz has declined by 25 percent. Changes in technology and business, in plumbing and appliances, in economic factors and the cost of water, along with an increased awareness of the need for water conservation, have all resulted in more efficient use of water over time. GPCD is a helpful tool for both measuring our conservation progress and managing urban water use.

Statewide Water Conservation Goals state capitol

In 2008, amid a statewide drought, then Governor Schwarzenegger directed state agencies to develop a plan to reduce statewide per capita water use by 20 percent by the year 2020. This “20x2020” goal was ultimately enacted into state law.

Santa Cruz has already exceeded its goal under the law and will continue striving to reduce its per capita use through new and expanded water conservation efforts.

How Much Does 95 Gallons of Water Cost?

2 quartersAbout 50 cents, which includes the cost to collect, treat, and deliver high quality drinking water to our homes and businesses, and the cost to maintain the water system infrastructure that sustains our daily lives, local economy, and environment. That’s less than the cost of a quart of bottled water that you buy in the store.

Four Good Ways to Reduce Your Water Use

• Install High Efficiency Toilets

• Purchase an Energy Star® Clothes Washer

• Use a Showerhead rated at 2.0 gallons per minute or less
Available free at the Water Conservation Office, 212 Locust Street, Suite B, Santa Cruz

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Last updated: 9/10/2013 8:59:10 AM