The weather is finally changing in the Santa Clarita Valley, and much of the focus has shifted away from California’s record-setting drought. But don’t let that fool you. Last year in the SCV, we received just over six inches of rain, and this year almost nine and a half inches of rain to date. Compared to a long-term average of 18 inches a year, our rainfall is well below average. This past summer water retailers in Santa Clarita passed a state-required “stress test” to prove they had enough water supply for prolonged drought. This meant the watering restrictions could be relaxed, but it did not mean that the drought was over. Relaxing the restrictions may have an inadvertent side effect made evident by water use that was 24 percent higher from June to September 2016 than the same period last year. This causes alarm, and it’s been a topic of discussion among the members of the Santa Clarita Valley Family of Water Suppliers. California still faces the requirements of the 2009 Water Conservation Act, which calls for a 20 percent per capita reduction in water use by 2020. We’re now more than halfway from 2009 to 2020, and while we here in the Santa Clarita Valley are on track to comply, any decrease in our community’s water use efficiency gains is cause for concern. The need to use water efficiently is not going away any time soon, if ever. We’ve long advocated that California needs an ongoing ethic of water use efficiency. California’s statewide water supply picture is a complicated one, with a variety of issues affecting not only short-term water supply — like droughts — but also long-term supply. We view water-saving activities not as something to be done just until the current crisis passes, but as a lifestyle change. We urge water users to be proactive with their landscape irrigation systems to ensure they are using water efficiently long after the drought ends. Here are three ways to be proactive: Check irrigation systems. Check to make sure there are no clogged sprinklers heads and that the heads are properly directed and are not blocked. If you encounter overspray, reduce water pressure. Irrigate in multiple short cycles to avoid runoff. Typically the predominately clay soil in the Santa Clarita Valley can only absorb 2-3 minutes of irrigation before water begins to run off. The optimal technique for watering your landscape is to set your sprinklers to run several short cycles, letting the water soak into the ground for an hour between cycles. Repeat two or three times, depending on the time of year. Stick to the watering schedule. While a watering day schedule isn’t mandatory right now, two days a week is probably plenty currently, and no more than three days a week in the spring and summer should be enough. This promotes deeper root growth that will help lawns survive our hot summer months. So, if you’re feeling a touch of “drought fatigue” coming on, please take a pause and recognize that we are still in the midst of an exceptional drought. Remember that taking steps today to change your irrigation practices is the beginning of a lifestyle change that will help us continue to make progress toward our long-term 20 percent reduction goal. The governor and State Water Resources Control Board are also currently developing further water conservation requirements that are to go beyond the current “20 percent by 2020” baseline reduction goal. We thank you for your prior conservation and efficient water use efforts and ask that you continue to do your part to use water more efficiently as part of the statewide effort to help ensure that we’ll have the water we need not just for today or tomorrow, but for many years to come. The Santa Clarita Valley Family of Water Suppliers consists of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Newhall County Water District, Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 36, Santa Clarita Water Division, and the Valencia Water Company. More information about the SCV Family of Water Suppliers and local conservation efforts is available at www.scvh2o.org.