San Diegans used 17 percent less water last month than in March 2013, beating the state-mandated goal of a 13 percent reduction, the San Diego County Water Authority announced Monday.
March was the first month in which lowered conservation targets were in effect. The former goal was 20 percent, but the state eased its orders for agencies in the San Diego region after the desalination plant in Carlsbad began production.
Since the mandates went into effect last June, the cumulative reduction has been 21 percent, the SDCWA reported.
"After almost a year of unprecedented emergency conservation orders, we've exceeded the state's goals thanks to continued diligence by homeowners and businesses," said Mark Weston, chairman of the water authority's Board of Directors. "Those efforts, coupled with decades of investments in safe and reliable supplies, mean we are well-positioned to meet our region's water needs today and for years to come, regardless of the weather."
The 17 percent cutback in March was a big turnaround from the month before. In February, water use climbed 5 percent in the face of unusually warm temperatures and low rainfall.
"The region's ability to significantly increase water conservation in March underscores our collective commitment to careful stewardship of water supplies," said Bob Yamada, the SDCWA's director of water resources.
"As we head into the typically dry months ahead, it's important to comply with water-use rules set by local water agencies. Because agencies have different state-mandated targets, restrictions will vary from place to place."
The SDCWA said drought conditions persist across California despite heavy rain and snow in Northern California over the winter.
Some of the state's key reservoirs have recently reached or surpassed their average water levels for this time of year, but others remain well below average, according to the agency. The northern Sierra Nevada snowpack -- which feeds the State Water Project with runoff -- was slightly below its historical average at the end of March.
State water officials are expected to reconsider water-use regulations in May, taking into account updated supply conditions.