Californians Cut Water Use by Least Since Tracking Began

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Dealing With Drought: Quenching California’s Thirst

California’s residents reduced water use in February by the least since officials began tracking conservation last year in response to a historic drought.

Water use was 2.8 percent below 2013 levels in February, according to a statement from the State Water Resources Control Board, which met Tuesday to consider restrictions mandated last week by Governor Jerry Brown. That’s the worst monthly performance since June, when officials began releasing data after Brown called for voluntary reductions of 20 percent.

“Not enough communities in the state have saved enough water,” Felicia Marcus, the board’s chairwoman, said in the statement. “Californians need to step up now -- especially those who have not been doing their share.”

Brown, a 77-year-old Democrat, issued an executive order April 1 seeking a mandatory 25 percent cut and a requirement that new homes feature efficient irrigation if the builder plans to use potable water for landscaping. He also called for 50 million square feet of lawns to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping, and required campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to cut back on water.

The board plans to consider rules on May 5 that would require a 25 percent reduction in urban water use starting the month after they’re approved. Cities that haven’t been conserving will face tougher restrictions than those that have.

Communities should restrict outdoor water use “to the bare minimum,” Marcus said. Outdoor watering accounts for as much as 80 percent of urban water use in some areas, according to the agency.

As the drought entered its fourth year, the board last month prohibited residents from watering lawns within 48 hours of a rain storm and limited watering to two days a week. Restaurants and bars can serve water only if asked by a customer. Hotel and motel operators must offer patrons the option of not having towels and linens washed daily. Residents and businesses face fines for failing to follow the rules.

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