Water, Water, Everywhere, And Californians Are Using Less of It

Residential water use has reached its lowest level since California started tracking it in summer 2014 during a five-year dry spell

Californians are using less water than they have in years, thanks in part to a steady stream of rainstorms that have watered lawns for homeowners, according to state water regulators.

The Water Resources Control Board said Tuesday that the average Californian used just 58.1 gallons of water a day in January. That's the lowest residential use since the state started tracking water use in summer 2014.

California is in the middle of one of its wettest winters in decades, but remains under a drought emergency. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to review the drought declaration sometime after the rain ends.

California's wet season lasts from October to April, when state water resource managers will trudge into the Sierras for the season's final snowpack measurement. The statewide snowpack, a key factor in the state's water supply, is 185 percent of normal for this time of year -- good news ahead of the state's hot, dry summer months. 

Snowfall on the 400-mile Sierra range provides roughly one-third of the water used in the nation's most populous state as the snow melts over the spring and summer and fills reservoirs supplying farmers and city dwellers. At the southern end of the Sierra Nevada -- with the highest mountain peaks -- more than double the normal amount of snow has piled up. 

Water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus said she was encouraged Californians are continuing to conserve water despite full reservoirs. Californians have saved enough water under the drought declaration to supply one-third of residential needs for a year.

"Californians’ understand that ongoing water conservation benefits everyone, and we are grateful that people have not forgotten five years of devastating drought now that our reservoirs are overflowing," said Marcus.

Last week's U.S. Drought Monitor report showed more than 90 percent of California is no longer under drought conditions. At this time last year, 95 percent of California was in some type of drought as the state endured a five-year dry spell.

Two weeks ago, 17 percent of the state was in some type of drought. 

But the extreme weather has brought floods that have caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, much of it to roads. In San Jose, one of the hardest hit communities, residents are returning to evacuated homes and sorting through belongings as the city comes to grips with an estimated $70 million in damage.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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