Why are we easing up on water conservation efforts again?

As the weather begins to heat up, it’s not uncommon to see car-wash fundraisers with water left running aimlessly, or overflooding lawns as the result of someone forgetting to set a sprinkler timer. Stubbornly wasteful habits were large contributors to the coping difficulties California residents faced when emergency water use regulations were first enforced.

The type of tension built from the threat of what just a few more dry seasons could lead to was enough to cause a shift into water conservation mode, with state mandated targets of course.

A statewide restriction to achieve a 25 percent urban water use reduction was imposed by The State Water Resources Control Board in early 2014, according to the State of California’s Executive Branch.

With the good fortune of a strong El Niño, California has experienced a fair amount of rainfall thus far in 2016.

For a drought-stricken state with rapidly shrinking reservoirs, a wet January, hopeless February but optimistic “March Miracle” gave those reservoirs a much-needed boost.

March rainfall alone “bumped the 154 reservoirs tracked by the state up from about 17 million acre-feet of stored water at the end of February to about 21.5 million acre-feet now,” said state hydrologist Maurice D. Roose in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

While some progress has been made, it would be ignorant to say that the water crisis is over, in fact it’s far from it. California is still at risk given the possibility that conditions worsen and we cannot afford to be even slightly wasteful with water usage.

Even a season of record-breaking rainfall may not meet the high expectations needed to end a four-year drought, because “true recovery takes time,” according to National Geographic. Measuring points of drought recovery can be a difficult task, because it depends on where you’re looking.

We know Northern California has seen some relief, however 55 percent of the state is still experiencing drought at extreme to exceptional levels, according to United States Drought Monitor.

Southern California weather is still dry as ever.

Truth is, we’ve gotten comfortable again. We’ve seen a bit of rainfall and many of us have already given up on strict efforts to conserve water.

By reducing the drought stage from a level 4 to a level 2, San Juan Water District has abandoned the state’s mandated target. Instead, customers are asked to voluntarily reduce usage by as little as 10 percent,” according to San Juan Water District, a Folsom Lake water recipient.

As the drought persisted, residents were forced to use water more wisely. Now it seems that we’re stepping back towards the same old irresponsible and stupid habits.

Because of the improved conditions of rivers and reservoirs in the Sacramento area, Ross Branch, a Placer County Water Agency official suggested the state lift water restrictions on the basis that the drought is now over, according to a recent interview with CBS Local, Sacramento. But, reluctantly, the state hasn’t budged.

We need to keep perspective here. As El Niño weakens, La Niña could change things up.

As opposed to El Niño, a warming of the ocean’s surface in which rainfall then increases over the tropical Pacific Ocean, La Niña does just the opposite and typically leads to drier California weather, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Both can be difficult monsters to predict.

Let’s not over worry, but consider the fact that we’re not all in the clear just yet. Any consideration to rid emergency restrictions now must be based on California drought conditions as a whole, not just portions of the state. It’s still too early to tell.

We need to continue to conserve in order to have the leeway to prepare for any outcome. If that means sticking to a 5 minute shower instead of a 30 minute soak, then so be it.