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California Drought Persists, Conservation Still ‘Top Priority’
While mandatory statewide conservation is over, California water officials say conservation remains a "top priority."
"Rain or shine, drought or no drought, state mandated target or not, Californians should keep conserving," said State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus. "While conditions improved for urban California’s water supply with the rain and snow we got last year, we are still largely in drought and saving water can extend urban water supplies off into the future if this next winter is dry again."
The board says Californians reduced residential water use by 28 percent in May, compared with the same month in 2013. May was the last month for mandatory statewide conservation.
New regulations that started in June, "give local water suppliers more autonomy to set their own conservation goals based on local supply conditions," a board news release says. "The State Water Board said it expects suppliers to continue to make water conservation a top priority as California enters the summer months, when the opportunity for water savings is greatest."
Despite near-normal rainfall in much of Northern California last winter, at least 60 percent of the state remains in severe or extreme drought. The board says groundwater basins and many reservoirs are badly depleted as drought continues for a fifth consecutive year in California.
While snowpack conditions were better this year than last, one near-normal winter was not going to erase the deficits caused by four years of drought.
As the drought continues, fire weather conditions may become more severe or elevated.
NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center says there are "elevated" fire weather conditions for northwestern Nevada and northeastern California July 7.
Four consecutive years of drought, millions of dead trees and dry vegetation means the threat of wildfires will remain high in Central and Southern California and the Southwest in July and August.
The National Interagency Fire Center and National Predictive Services unit released its National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook July 1. The report looks at fire risk from July through October.
"Current conditions [southern and central California] in the field with both live and dead fuels are more in line with readings seen in August or early September," the report noted.
Fire potential is also increased for mountain areas of California and offshore winds in the fall months are a concern.
"In September and October, long term drought is expected to remain in place and fall conditions typically bring an increase in offshore wind events that often drive fire activity for the state."
Southern and central California also will continue to have "Elevated" or "Above Normal" fire potential through October due to long-term drought, severe tree mortality, and vegetation mortality.
NOAA's latest State of the Climate report shows the contiguous United States had the warmest June on record. The June temperature averaged across the contiguous United States was 71.8°F, or 3.3°F higher than the 20th century average.
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