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In Drought-Ravaged California, Water Use Is Up Dramatically


FILE— Signs alert visitors to the severe drought in Mendocino, Calif., on Aug. 4, 2021. California's water usage jumped nearly 19% in March of 2022, during one of the driest months on record, state officials announced, May 10, 2022.

California's drought is worsening and yet residents used more water in March than any month since 2015, defying pleas for conservation from Gov. Gavin Newsom and other authorities, state officials announced Tuesday.

Water usage jumped nearly 19% in March compared to 2020, which was one of the driest months on record. Newsom last summer asked residents to voluntarily cut water use by 15% compared to 2020. He encouraged people to water their yards less often, run dishwashers less and install more efficient appliances.

The state's conservation rate gradually increased, aided by some intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand. But the first three months of 2022 have been some of the driest ever recorded. Water use increased slightly in January and February before exploding in March when compared to 2020 figures.

Since July, the state has cut its overall water use by just 3.7%.

Newsom responded to the news by pledging to spend an extra $26 million on water conservation programs, in addition to the $190 million he proposed in January. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced residents and businesses would have to reduce outdoor landscape watering from three days per week to two. Irrigation makes up 35% of the city's water use.

A series of April storms have improved things slightly since March. Still, most of the state's reservoirs are well below their historic averages. Those reservoirs rely on melting snow to fill up for the dry summer months, but the statewide snowpack was at just 27% of its historic average as of April 1.

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