Matt Stevens
April 4, 2016

After nine months of fervent conservation, drought-fatigued Californians narrowly missed meeting the water-savings target set by Gov. Jerry Brown a year ago.

Urban dwellers reduced their consumption by 23.9% between June and February, state regulators said Monday, just short of the 25% cut required under Brown’s executive order.

Still, the conservation efforts saved about 368 billion gallons of water, or enough to supply nearly 6 million Californians for a year.

Officials have said it is unlikely that the state as a whole would face any consequences for missing Brown’s standard by such a small margin, but individual water suppliers could still face penalties.

“We were hoping we’d get a miracle March — we got a modest March, which definitely beats the horrendous conditions we’ve had,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board.

“We’re nowhere near having a ‘drought’s over party,’ ” she said, adding that a “subdued … its-way-better-than-the-last-few-years party” would be more appropriate.

California’s cumulative water savings dipped below 25% in recent months as the weather turned colder and people began using less water. In February, residents and businesses cut their usage by only 12% compared with the same month in 2013, officials said. By comparison, they saved 31.4% in July.

It was the lowest monthly reduction in terms of percentage since Brown’s mandate took effect in June. Southern Californians dragged down the state’s savings, cutting back only 6.9%.

Water officials blamed the lower February savings partly on warm and dry conditions that Marcus called “just horrid.” They urged Californians to keep conserving and harped on an increasingly common refrain.

“The drought is not over,” said Max Gomberg, the water board’s climate and conservation manager. “Conservation habits are still important heading into this summer.”

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Monday’s report provides a bookend, though, to the historic executive order Brown issued from Phillips Station a year ago. In November, he issued another order that added flexibility to some of the conservation requirements while also extending the rules through October.

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