Californians increased their water consumption this year during the severe drought, despite pleas from the governor to conserve, fallowed farm fields and reservoirs that are quickly draining, according to a report released Tuesday.
The State Water Resources Control Board released updated results from a water-use survey that said consumption has risen 1 percent, even as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback.
The board's report corrected survey results released just a month ago that said use statewide had declined by just 5 percent.
The earlier survey prompted the water board to approve the most drastic response yet to California's drought — imposing fines of up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses.
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Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said the new usage figures underscore the need for action.
"Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is ... and how bad it could be," she said. "There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state."
The increase noted in the new report is attributable to two regions of the state: Southern California coastal communities and the far northeastern slice of the state that runs along the Nevada border from Oregon to Mono Lake.
The updated number was based on surveys taken from water districts throughout California and was based on consumption from May compared to the same month in previous years.
Marcus said if the $500-a-day fines approved Tuesday prove insufficient, the board will consider other steps. Those could include requiring water districts to stop leaks in their pipes, which account for an estimated 10 percent of water use, stricter landscape restrictions and encouraging water agencies to boost rates for consumers who use more than their share of water.
Fines for excessive outdoor watering might not be enough and could be only a first step, said Max Gomberg, a senior environmental scientist for the board.
"It takes time to get the message out and change behavior," he said.