California officials focus on water conservation amid storms

California officials focus on water conservation amid storms

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FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — State regulators said Tuesday they are confident that residents of drought-stricken California will meet long-term water conservation goals but worried that the onslaught of storms dousing the state might lead to backsliding.

"You're seeing it rain and you're hearing about a snowpack above normal," State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in Sacramento. "We need to keep saving."

Despite the uptick in El Nino-driven precipitation, reservoirs remained critically low in the state and the landscape is parched after four years of drought.

Residents fell short of the governor's 25 percent conservation mandate in November for a second straight month, using 20 percent less water, officials reported.

However, residents have saved a combined 26 percent since the cutbacks began in June.

Officials had expected less water saving during the winter, when residents reduce landscape irrigation, Marcus said.

Still, the latest numbers reflect considerable savings compared to past years, Marcus said, adding that residents understand it's too early to declare an end to the long-running drought.

Most strikingly, average monthly water use declined from 87 gallons for each person in October to 75 gallons in November, hitting the lowest level since the curtailments began, officials reported.

"Californians are clearly thinking twice before turning on the tap," Marcus said in a statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the 25 percent cutbacks in June compared to the same period in 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.

The regulations are set to expire in February, and regulators are drafting new conservation measures under the governor's authority that could be extended through October.

Conservation efforts hit a setback in October when Californians missed the mandated target by posting 22 percent in savings.

Regulators renewed their appeal for conservation, even as a recent Sierra Nevada snowpack survey showing water content was well above normal for this time of year.

"We're in such a deep hole," Marcus said. "We need to have a lot of water in storage and snow in the mountains to let us relax at all."

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