Californians Exceeded Water-Cut Hopes

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With their drought-ravaged state in its hottest summer on record, Californians exceeded a water-conservation benchmark, regulators said Thursday.
     Showing that California’s water districts combined to drastically cut urban water use by 27 percent in June, the State Water Resources Control Board’s latest conservation figures surpass Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate of 25 percent conservation.
     “Californians and water suppliers that serve them have stepped up big time,” water board chair Felicia Marcus told reporters in a conference call. “This is significant, especially in light of the fact that June was really hot.”
     The state hit the conservation benchmark for the second month in row as May’s urban-water use was 25 percent lower than 2013 rates. Historic drought led Brown in April to call for the development and enforcement of conservation plans aimed at saving a minimum of 25 percent.
     Water board records show that the state conserved 59 billion gallons in June, and that 60 percent of water suppliers met the water board’s conservation standards. In a media call, the water board said 16 water districts underperformed and were more than 15 percent away from their goal.
     While the board is not fining the underperforming districts at this point, it did say it would be meeting with them and developing a better water-saving strategy going forward. The suppliers could be forced to take immediate action, including enhancing restrictions on residents’ outdoor watering.
     Along with reaching conservation goals, data shows that water districts are increasing penalties on water-code violators. Combined, the state’s water agencies issued 9,500 penalties in June, up from 1,900 in May.
     July has been a wet month in Southern California, and a strong El Nino could still bring rain this fall, Marcus conceded, but she said the state can’t rely on “El Nino hype.”
     “It’s Russian roulette until it happens,” Marcus said.
     A study released Thursday by NASA measured California’s “rain debt,” accumulated through four years of drought, to be approximately 20 inches – the average amount of rain the state receives in one year.
     “If this El Nino holds through winter, California’s chances to recoup some of the precipitation increase,” NASA study lead Andrey Savtchenko said. “Unfortunately, so do the chances of floods and landslides. Most likely the effects would be felt in late 2015-16.”

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