Environment & Science

California misses mark for saving water 2 months running

Jess Cullen learned to wash dishes in Australia by filing a quarter of her sink with water.
Jess Cullen learned to wash dishes in Australia by filing a quarter of her sink with water.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Residents of drought-weary California in November fell short of hitting a 25 percent water conservation mandate for a second month running, state officials say.

The monthly tally comes as a series of much-anticipated El Niño storms line up, expecting to drench the state for several days and boost the snowpack.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said California remains on course to beat its long-term goal through February. Marcus wouldn't reveal ahead of Tuesday's formal announcement exactly how much the state fell short of its target.

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The numbers, however, reveal considerable savings over past years, said Marcus, adding that residents understand that it is too early to declare an end to a drought already spanning four years.

"Folks are continuing to be thoughtful about water use in the face of the El Nino," said Marcus, adding that she anticipated less saving during the winter months. "It's a smaller percentage, but it's still pretty good."

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statewide order beginning in June to conservewater by 25 percent compared to the same period in 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.

Conservation efforts first hit a setback in October, when Californians missed the mandated target, posting 22 percent in savings. Regulators said at the time that since enforcement began, the state cut water use by a combined 27 percent, leaving some wiggle room.

Regulators urge conservation, even with the coming storms and as the winter's initial snowpack surveys taken in late December recorded that thewater content was above of normal in the Central Sierra Nevada, including Lake Tahoe.

"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."