LOS ANGELES, California: California state officials have announced that, amidst one of the driest stretches on record, California's water use rose dramatically in March, as homeowners began watering their lawns earlier than usual, in defiance of Governor Gavin Newsom's pleas for water conservation.
Last summer, in the midst of a drought that threatened to drain the state's reservoirs to dangerously low levels, Newsom urged residents to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent compared to 2020.
As a result of intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand, water conservation increased gradually through December. However, the first three months of 2022 have been the driest on record.
In March, Californians averaged 77 gallons (291.48 liters) per person per day, an 18.9 percent increase from March 2020 and the most water they have consumed during that month since the state's previous drought in 2015.
This week, Newsom pledged to spend $100 million on an advertising campaign to encourage water conservation in the state, and promised to spend $211 million to conserve more water in state government buildings by replacing plumbing and adopting irrigation measures.
"Conservation actions are most impactful when they account for the diversity of conditions and supply needs around the state," Newsom's office said in a statement.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said residents and businesses would have to reduce outdoor landscape watering from three days per week to two.
Compared to agriculture, urban water use accounts for a relatively small percentage of California's overall water use. Local farmers have also suffered, as state and federal officials have reduced water allocations in some areas.
In March, near the end of the rainy season, demand for non-agriculture water is usually low, but the state only received 1 inch of precipitation this March, while temperatures were 3 degrees warmer than usual, further increasing water demand.
A series of storms in April improved the situation slightly, but most of the levels of the state's reservoirs are still well below their historic averages.
Saying there will be no more rains, Jeanine Jones, of the California Department of Water Resources, said, "This is what we have. This is what we are going to get. We cannot expect anything significant past this date," as quoted by the Associated Press.
According to state officials, 20 percent of the wells they monitor are reporting all-time low water levels, while nearly half have less than 10 percent of their normal averages.
Officials also said they were assisting 687 households through a small community drought relief program.