May Was the Biggest Water Savings Month Yet During Drought

California reduced its residential water usage by nearly 30 percent in May, the biggest single month savings yet. (Kat Snow/KQED)

California cities hit record conservation during the drought after cutting water use 29 percent in May, according to data released by a state agency Wednesday.

Regulators hope the savings last through summer as California communities are under order to cut water use by 25 percent compared to 2013 levels. Gov. Jerry Brown announced his mandatory conservation order in April.

Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board enforcing Brown's order, said the results show it's possible to meet steep conservation targets.

"It's gratifying that far more communities are stepping up and we want to see this much more through the summer," Marcus said. "It ends up putting off the need for much harsher rationing which has greater impacts on people and the economy."

The May water savings were the best showing since the state started tracking conservation last year. It followed several months of tepid conservation, 13.5 percent in April and 4 percent in March.

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June is the first month that water districts must meet mandatory water restrictions that range from 4 to 36 percent. This month, the water board will see how water districts are doing and some could face fines.

The conservation data is self-reported by California water departments and includes residential and business consumption. All regions of the state showed improvement.

The southern coast, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego, conserved 25 percent in May after months of tepid savings. Sacramento and its surrounding suburbs were the state's top performer, cutting water use nearly 40 percent.

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The conservation may have been skewed by rain in parts of the state, which reduces the need to water lawns. Regulators have been encouraging Californians to let their lawns go dry this summer as the easiest way to save large amounts of water and maintain local supplies if the drought continues.

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