Some called it the March Miracle, that convergence of dark clouds above California in 1991.
It rained for nearly 30 consecutive days, raised the Sierra snowpack, partially replenished thirsty reservoirs and temporarily relieved the Southland of a looming drought emergency.
It also doused the best-laid plans for one of the most aggressive drought-awareness campaigns ever undertaken by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Workers in the DWP's "drought buster" unit, charged with cracking down on water wasters, feared for their jobs. Advertising copy was hastily rewritten.
Nonetheless, as storm after storm pelted the region, Los Angeles residents took heed of stern orders to cut water use by 15%--catching shower water in buckets and installing low-flow faucets.
Although the five-year drought was far from over, by June conditions had dramatically improved. The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Southern California, said it would enter the summer with near normal supplies.
City residents continued to keep their faucets trickling.
Later, the DWP found itself in hot water by proposing an 11% hike in city water rates. Residents and businesses, it turned out, conserved twice the required amount, costing the DWP $70 million in lost water bill revenues. The City Council flatly rejected the hike.
Included in the agency's $98.8-million budget deficit are increased costs for the drought-buster campaign.