Urban residents of California beat their goal for saving water in March by turning off their sprinklers when the rain fell.
The State Water Board says cities and businesses cut water use by more than 24 percent compared to the same month in 2013. Board chair Felicia Marcus called it "a stunningly welcome number" after a six-month run of declining conservation. The 24.3 percent mark doubled efforts in February, when much of California was dry, with record-high temperatures.
March is the first month under newly relaxed conservation requirements. Cities are now expected to use at least 20 percent less water, a break from the previous order of 25 percent.
A bright spot continues to be water use per capita by urban Californians, who have throttled back from an average of more than 100 gallons per person, per day in August, to 66 in March, with people in some locations using significantly less.
Officials say it's an indication that Californians have stuck to some of the water habits they formed during the state's most punishing drought on record.