Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 08:45

California’s water use jumped dramatically in March, state officials said Tuesday, as one of the driest stretches on record prompted a wave of homeowners to start watering their lawns earlier than usual in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pleas for conservation amid a severe drought.

Newsom last summer asked residents to voluntarily cut water use by 15% compared to 2020 as climate change intensified a drought that threatened to drain the state’s reservoirs to dangerously low levels. Water conservation increased gradually through December, aided by some intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand.

But the first three months of 2022 have been the driest on record. Californians averaged 77 gallons per person per day in March, an 18.9% increase from March 2020. It’s the most water Californians have used in March since the middle of the previous drought in 2015. Statewide, water consumption is up just 3.7% since July compared to 2020, woefully short of Newsom’s 15% goal

Newsom responded on Tuesday by pledging to spend $100 million on a statewide advertising campaign to encourage water conservation. The campaign will include traditional radio and television spots while also paying people with large followings on social media to urge others to save water. He also promised to spend an $211 million to conserve more water in state government buildings by replacing plumbing fixtures and irrigation controls.

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