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Californians saved less water in November than previous year, water board report says

Californians saved less water in November than previous year, water board report says
Workers on a turf removal and replacement job install artificial grass at a Pacific Palisades home. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

California water conservation took a slight step backward in November, officials announced Wednesday, possibly due in part to an unusually wet fall and months of successful conservation efforts.

Californians used 18.8% less water this past November compared with November 2013, the benchmark year for state conservation measurements. In November 2015, residents statewide cut back usage 20.2% compared with 2013.

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"The increase over the water savings achieved in November 2015 could be due to wet conditions … and turning off outdoor irrigation, which is both appropriate and required by the regulations," the State Water Resources Control Board wrote.

Though meteorologists note that rainfall across wide swaths of the state was below average in November, it was preceded by the wettest October in 30 years in Northern California, dulling the impact of the reduced precipitation.

The state also experienced an exceptionally rainy and snowy December, leading state water officials and climatologists to suggest that California could be turning a corner in its multiyear drought.

Even more rain and snow are on the way across the state this weekend.

November's conservation was a small drop off from the previous month, when Californians used 19.6% less water compared to October 2013. More importantly, conservation levels remained strong in communities that had their state-imposed conservation targets lifted last summer, officials said.

"Californians are continuing to conserve, which is the way it should be, given that we can't know what the future will bring, but we know that we can't take water for granted anymore," state water board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement. "With climate change already creating water supply challenges that will only get worse and [the] state population projected to exceed 40 million by 2020, we all need to become more efficient with our limited water supplies year in and year out."

Between June 2015 when conservation was first mandated and this past November, Californians have saved 764.8 billion gallons of water, or enough to provide a quarter of state residents with water for a year, compared with 2013.

About 44% of the state's water suppliers saved more than 20% compared to 2013, the water board said. The board highlighted suppliers that saved more this past November than in 2015, including in Lemoore, Whittier, Goleta and Sonoma.

But others, like the Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 29 in Malibu, had sharp reductions in conservation, the board noted. In November 2015, Malibu cut its water usage by 12% compared with 2013. But last year it saved just 8%, the state reported.

A discussion on extending the state's current regulations or possibly reinstitute mandatory conservation targets if dry conditions return or conservation levels dip significantly will be held Jan. 18, with a more formal proposal after public input due in February.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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