A dry January pulled down water conservation rate in California

The reason for water-conservation decrease in January is no surprise: It was a dry month

After getting a gold star for saving water in December, California's conservation efforts flagged in January.

Urban water use figures released Tuesday by the state show that Californians in January again fell far short of the 20% conservation goal set a year ago by Gov. Jerry Brown. Statewide, water use dropped 8.8% from January 2014's level. In December, it was down 22.2% from the same month a year earlier.

The reason lies in the weather extremes between the two months. December was wet, and people turned off their sprinklers. They apparently turned them back on the next month, which was the driest January on record in parts of the state.

"Today's announcement is a disappointment but not a surprise, considering how dry January was," Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said in a statement.

California's daily residential water use rose to 73 gallons per person in January from 67 gallons in December.

The North Coast region racked up the greatest water savings in January, recording a 17.2% drop from a year earlier. The Bay Area had a 3.7% drop, the smallest decline in that period. But the San Francisco region still recorded the smallest daily per-capita water use, 56 gallons. The highest daily per-capita use, 147 gallons, was in the desert cities of southeastern California.

The South Coast region, which encompasses coastal Southern California, used 9.2% less water than it did in January 2014. Daily per-person use was 75 gallons.

Although the state's major reservoirs hold more water than they did a year ago, thanks to storms in December and February, storage remains below average. The statewide snowpack is only 19% of the norm for the date, and water managers are planning for a fourth year of drought.

"Urban water users must cut back more," Marcus said. The state water board this spring is expected to renew mandatory drought restrictions it adopted last year and could add to them.

bettina.boxall@latimes.com
Twitter: @boxall

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