FRESNO, Calif. (CBS/AP) — California’s latest water conservation numbers may not appear as impressive as in past months, but residents are exceeding a long-term order to use less during the historic drought, a state official said.
In October, the statewide conservation rate was 22.2 percent down from 26.4 percent in September.
For a fifth straight month, Californians have been under an order by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use by 25 percent compared with the same period of 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.
Felicia Marcus, the board’s chairwoman, blamed the lower numbers on October’s exceptionally warm temperatures. Because the mandated savings began in June, California still is meeting its 25 percent target when averaging several months together, she said.
“I think people have gotten the message,” Marcus said. “Californians are continuing to understand that they need to save water.”
The state has reported that California is more than halfway toward its conservation goal for the period ending in February. Statewide cutbacks amounted to 26 percent in September, 27 percent in August, 31 percent in July and 27 percent in June.
In September, state officials for the first time fined four water suppliers for failing to meet their individual conservation targets. Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District were each fined $61,000. Continued violations could lead to a cease-and-desist order with potential fines of $10,000 a day.
The conservation push comes as California experiences its driest four-year span on record.
Brown, uncertain if drought-busting storms are coming this winter, recently extended his executive order preparing the state for a fifth year of drought. It allows emergency conservation to continue through October 2016 if dry conditions persist this January.
He took the action despite forecasters this year predicting a strong El Nino, an ocean-warming phenomenon that can change weather patterns globally and increase chances of heavy rain and snow pelting California.
So far, below-average rain and snowfall have fallen on the northern Sierra Nevada, while the central Sierra has received above average precipitation, said Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
It is too early to know what the wet season will ultimately deliver, he said.
“Every El Nino can be a little different,” Shoemaker said. “There is a long way to go in this season.”
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