California water agencies reported a 7.5 percent drop in monthly water use in July in a survey released Tuesday, falling far short of Gov. Jerry Brown's call for a 20 percent reduction in water use when he declared a drought emergency.
The State Water Resources Control Board adopted statewide water restrictions in July and will consider whether more aggressive steps are needed to conserve water in the worst drought in a generation. The figures released Tuesday showed water use fell in July compared with a year ago.
"While this initial report is an improvement, we hope and trust that it is just a start,'' Felicia Marcus, the board's chairwoman, said in a statement.
A survey earlier this year showed monthly water use actually increased by 1 percent in May, one of the reasons the water board imposed restrictions that include fines of up to $500 per day for water wasters.
Monthly water use fell by 4.4 percent in June.
The mandatory survey includes water suppliers that serve roughly 33 million Californians, according to the water board.
The results also show each of the state's 10 hydrological regions reduced their water use. For example, Southern California coastal communities that reported an 8 percent increase in May reported a 2 percent drop in July.
Figures for August, when new statewide regulations were in full effect, will be released later this month. Depending on those results, the board may consider even more aggressive steps to meet the governor's call for a 20 percent reduction.
The surveys do not capture some of the reasons monthly water use rises unrelated to conservation. For example, cities that battled large fires, added golf courses or new businesses, or had major leaks may register large increases.
The surveys do not show per-capita water use, which will be reported in October. As a result, it's easier for cities such as Sacramento and Fresno with historically high per-capita water use to cut back compared with arid cities such Los Angeles, which has long imposed mandatory restrictions and turf removal programs.