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Californians Conserve Less Water Under New Rules

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Sprinklers irrigate the field at Kit Carson Middle School, one day after rains swept through the area, in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Californians used 21 percent less water in June than they did in 2013. That wasn’t as much savings as last month or even last year, but state water regulators say they expected conservation to dip. It’s the first month after statewide mandates were eased. Local water agencies now set conservation standards based on supply. Agencies must self-certify that they can provide water for several years. Regulators call it a "stress-test."

But it may be too soon to tell if the dip in June is an indication that the relaxed rules aren't working.

“Now heading into the core of the summer, we’ve dropped a little bit but that of course coincides with June being the first month under the new stress test regime," says Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager with the State Water Resources Control Board. "The proof is in the pudding. We’re just going to see.”

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Tim Quinn with the Association of California Water Agencies says the new rules are working.

“Our polling indicates that the vast majority of Californians want to keep on conserving and we’re going to encourage that. But to the extent locals have invested and they don’t need to go to extraordinary measures which impose inconvenience on locals, they don’t need to do that.”

Water board members called it a “healthy conservation rate.” Environmentalists have complained that the relaxed mandates are short-sighted.