San Diego Reduces Water Use in December, Drought Continues

Residents of San Diego County reduced their water use by 29 percent in December compared to the same month a year previous, though drought conditions across the state continued, according to numbers released by the San Diego County Water Authority.

The heavy rainstorms in December helped curb the county’s water usage as residents, businesses and farmers turned off irrigation systems for long periods of time.

“While rainstorms over the past several weeks are welcome, don’t be fooled into thinking that the drought is over,” said Dana Friehauf, an acting water resources manager for the Water Authority, in a press release. “Reservoir storage levels remain low, and it’s far too early to be certain about our water supplies for 2015. That means we all need to redouble our efforts to improve stored water reserves in coming months.”

The total savings for the last month of the year reached 10,636 acre-feet, despite the fact that it was the fourteenth consecutive month of above-normal temperatures in San Diego. The amount of water saved during December alone is enough to serve more than 21,000 typical four-person households for a year.

“People across the county capitalized on the wet weather and achieved an extraordinary reduction in water use last month,” said Mark Weston, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors, in a press release. “That effort highlights our region’s long-term commitment to water conservation, which has driven down per capita water demand by more than 20 percent since 2007.”

Nearly 100 percent of California is still in drought, however, after only light to moderate rain fell in parts of the state during early January, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The percentage of the state in "Exceptional Drought," the most severe of the Monitor's five categories, increased from 33 percent to nearly 40 percent since last week. Ninety-eight percent of the state is under at least one drought category, representing no change since last week.

At the start of October, more than 58 percent of the state was in "Exceptional Drought" and 100 percent of the state was under some type of drought.

The state's water reservoirs have been well below normal during the three-year dry spell. Reservoirs near and north of the Sacramento Valley are above critically low levels at the start of the water year in October, but water-year-to-date totals have dropped back to near average after last month's storms brought precipitation to the region.

Last November, the city went into “drought alert status” and issued tighter water use restrictions that took effect at the start of November across San Diego after approval by the City Council to combat the state’s prolonged drought.

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