SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - In response to historic drought and temperatures, Californians cut water use by 22 percent in October but missed a 25 percent conservation goal for the first time since mandatory restrictions began in June.
Regulators attributed the slight decline in urban water conservation to scorching October temperatures that averaged seven degrees higher than October 2013.
Despite missing its urban water conservation target for the first time in six months, California's cumulative water savings is at 27 percent, ahead of the 25 percent cumulative goal ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown in April.
Members of the State Water Resources Control Board said that despite missing the monthly target, they were "pleasantly surprised" with October's 22 percent savings and applauded Californians for saving 41 billion gallons compared to October 2013.
"When I saw 22.2 [percent] I was relieved because I thought that, especially since it was hot, it indicated continuous, conscious effort on the part of Californians," water board chair Felicia Marcus said.
Californians used under 200 billion gallons of water for the first time since the mandatory restrictions began. Since June, residents have saved 297 billion gallons, or 76 percent of the 1.2 million acre-feet savings goal targeted for the end of February 2016.
For five straight months, including a trial run of the order in May, the Golden State surpassed the 25 percent goal compared with the same months in 2013. In October, 69 percent of water suppliers met their conservation standard, down from 72 percent in September.
With winter and a strong El Nino weather pattern headed to the West Coast, regulators said it's important for Californians to continue to conserve water in the cooler months as the persistent drought will likely continue through 2016.
"While El Nino storms may bring significant rain this winter, the depth of our drought and the uncertainty of the amount, type and location of precipitation means we have to continue conserving every way we can," Marcus said. "In other words, unless we get a ton of snow in the Sierras that lasts through April, every drop saved today is one we'll be glad we have tomorrow."
Most of Northern California has received below-average precipitation since October, while parts of Southern California are at or near their historical average.
Despite a series of cold storms that brought snow to the Sierra Nevadas and allowed ski resorts to open early in November, statewide snowpack totals remain at just 56 percent of normal. The Northern Sierra Nevada and Trinity mountains, which help supply the state's most important rivers and reservoirs, are at a dismal 38 percent of normal for Dec. 1.
Last month the water board issued its first fines to three cities and a desert water district for falling short of their state-mandated standards: Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District.
The water board fined the cities $61,000 each for consistently missing their conservation standards since June.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.