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California water use plunged in April amid drought crisis

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Californians responded to the worst snowpack measurement on record and unprecedented drought restrictions by decreasing their water use 13.5 percent in April, regulators said Tuesday.

Southern California cities including Los Angeles and San Diego continued to lag in conservation, cutting just 9 percent.

The data show residents and businesses achieved the savings compared to the same month of 2013.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered mandatory cutbacks in April as the drought drags on.

The State Water Resources Control Board will start tracking compliance this summer after assigning each community a water use reduction target of as much as 36 percent. The board is also tracking how local agencies crack down on water waste.

Only about a tenth of water departments, 43 out of 395, reported issuing any sort of penalties for water waste.

April was a wakeup call for California when surveyors found the water in the Sierra Nevada snowpack at its lowest level on record. The snowpack provides nearly a third of the state's water.

That data and the lack of urgency regarding conservation among residents prompted the governor to demand mandatory cutbacks to make sure communities have enough water to get through the drought.

While many agencies have enough water to avoid the brunt of the drought, some rural communities have seen wells run dry.

The shift to mandatory conservation followed lackluster savings, with water use slipping just 3 percent in February and 4 percent in March compared to 2013 levels.

Local water departments report how much water their residents and businesses use monthly.

California pool industry fights back amid historic drought 03:11

As CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports, the pool industry has found itself squarely in the cross-hairs of the new crackdown. Representatives from the state's $5 billion pool industry are fighting back against what they say is an unfair characterization as water-wasters.

Last month, California water regulators accepted a historic offer by farmers to make a 25 percent voluntary water cut to avoid deeper mandatory losses during the drought. The several hundred farmers made the offer after state officials warned they were days away from ordering some of the first cuts in more than 30 years to the senior water rights holders.

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