Regulators reveal whether California's cutting water use

Last Updated Jul 30, 2015 3:04 PM EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Water use in California fell by 27 percent in June, passing the conservation target set by Gov. Jerry Brown during the drought, regulators said Thursday.

Data released by the State Water Resources Control Board shows 265 out of 411 local agencies hit or nearly reached savings targets.

The savings came during the hottest June on record, which would normally lead to an uptick in water use. Prior savings have occurred during unusually wet months

The report confirms figures previously released by California's largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, showing strong water conservation.

The agencies that met or came within 1 percent of their mandatory water conservation target serve 27 million Californians.

"The June numbers tell a story of conscious conservation, and that's what we need and are applauding today," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the water board. "We need to save as much as possible. That is water essentially in the bank for a future dry year or more."

Brown previously ordered an overall 25 percent reduction in urban water use compared to 2013 levels. His administration gave each community nine months to hit assigned conservation targets as high as 36 percent.

The water board says it will contact every agency that didn't come close to its targets and ask for more information about what it's doing to conserve. The worst performers will be told to ramp up water waste enforcement or limit the number of days residents can water lawns.

Water waste enforcement also shot up drastically in June. Agencies issued more than 9,500 penalties compared to about 1,900 in May.

June was the month conservation went from a polite request to a demand by the governor to let lawns go brown, take shorter showers and implement other measures. Programs in Southern California offering millions of dollars to residents who rip out lawns have been exhausted.

State regulators assigned conservation targets between 8 and 36 percent. Water savings are compared to 2013, the year before Brown declared a drought emergency.

Meteorologists say a wet California winter is increasingly likely as a strong El Nino condition builds in the Pacific Ocean, although it's unclear if it will be a drought-buster.