California Water Use Drops 11.5 Percent in August

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - State officials on Tuesday reported the largest monthly decline in water use this year as the severity of California's drought hits home, with community wells running dry, farm fields turning to dust and once massive reservoirs becoming vast mudflats.

Water suppliers reported that consumption fell 11.5 percent in August compared with the year before. That was the first full month of mandatory restrictions and fines for water-wasters imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board in July.

"The trend here is very good," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the board. "It appears the audience is listening and folks have shifted into gear since we took action.''

The data is self-reported by water agencies with 3,000 or more customers. Together, the reporting agencies serve 33.5 million Californians, or roughly 87 percent of the state's population. The figures include residential and business users but do not show per-capita water use.

Gov. Jerry Brown called on Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency in January.

A similar survey showed water use actually increased by 1 percent in May. Since then, monthly water use has declined by 4.4 percent in June and 7.5 percent in July.

Of large suppliers serving 40,000 or more customers, the city of Tracy in Northern California had the largest percentage decrease in water consumption, at 41 percent. Ten actually increased their water use. That included the city of San Luis Obispo, which had a 26 percent jump.

Californians could face further restrictions if the drought worsens and the coming winter fails to produce adequate snow and rainfall.

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