Residents of drought-plagued California fell just short of the state's mandated water conservation target over the nine months that ended in February as they let lawns turn brown, flushed toilets less often and took other strict measures, officials said Monday.
Residents statewide used 23.9 percent less water over those nine months compared to the same months in 2013.
The savings were shy of the 25 percent water cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown ordered last year for users in cities and towns.
Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, called it an "enormous effort" in saving water, despite the missed target.
"Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways," she said.
Californians saved just 12 percent in the month of February — less than half the target ordered by Brown.
February was the final month of reporting under the governor's 25 percent savings mandate. Californians will now be required to use at least 20 percent less water.
The state is now in the fifth year of drought, even though an El Nino weather system delivered a near-average year of rain and snow in some parts of the state.
State officials say that might impact the outcome of a workshop planned later this month to consider the best approach for conservation.
Key reservoirs in Northern California are brimming after El Nino storms drenched the region. However, Southern California saw relatively little precipitation, leaving most of its reservoirs low.
By April 1 — typically the end of California's rain and snow season — the state was left with a nearly average snowpack and few hopes of more significant storms.
"We need people to keep saving," Marcus said.