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An Assessment of Urban Water Demand Forecasts in California

Sonali Abraham, Sarah Diringer, Heather Cooley | August 5th, 2020

In California, urban per capita water demand has declined dramatically over the past several decades, driven in part by greater uptake of water-efficient devices. These reductions have important implications for estimating future water demand. However, failure to account for the long-term trend of declining per capita water demand has led to routine overestimation of future water demand. This can lead to unnecessary and costly investment in unneeded infrastructure and new sources of supply, higher costs, and adverse environmental impacts.

This report examines the accuracy of long-range water demand forecasts for California’s 10 largest urban water suppliers. It finds that per capita water demand declined for all water suppliers between 2000 and 2015. In most cases, reductions in per capita water demand were so large that total water demand declined during this period. Additionally, all water suppliers overestimated demand, driven largely by inflated estimates of per capita water demand and, to a lesser extent, overestimates of population growth rates. The report offers recommendations on how to improve the accuracy of long-range water demand forecasts.


planning and management, urban water conservation, water supply forecasting

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