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San Diego posts huge cuts in water consumption

State-wide residential water use dropped 29 percent in the same time, with San Diego’s performance one of the best by a large urban area in the region. California Gov. Jerry Brown has imposed unprecedented reduction targets, and the figures suggest the state might be on its way to meeting them.

An aggressive campaign by state bureaucrats to persuade residents to make voluntary 20 percent cutbacks appears to be working. Lifestyle changes, such as taking shorter showers, using water-efficient appliances, and a government grass turf replacement program, have all seen drastic reductions compared with May 2013. The news is encouraging, since Brown has instituted the only water rationing mandate in California history.

“My first response is almost disbelief,” said Mark Gold of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “These results are beyond encouraging; they’re heartening. They make you realize that as a whole, people in urban areas are making the sacrifices necessary to get through this unprecedented drought.”

San Diego was singled out for special praise by state regulators for cutting water usage almost six times from its April numbers.

“While the numbers for May look promising, we should keep in mind that unexpected rainfall also contributed to the lower usage,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “San Diegans continue to prove they are state-wide leaders in water conservation and they must keep conserving water to meet the state mandate.”

If climate change continues as experts suggest, water conservation will be a pressing issue for many other states in future. California’s record water saving measures sets a path for others to follow. But John Helminski, assistant director of San Diego public utilities, still thinks that conservation efforts will slip this summer.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, average temperatures in the entire South Coast region were about 5 degrees cooler compared with May 2013, with an extra half inch of rain. Regulators will be crossing their fingers that May’s success wasn’t just a fluke.

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