SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Water use in California jumped nearly 19% in March compared to 2020 as residents defied pleas for conservation from Gov. Gavin Newsom and other authorities amid a severe drought, state officials announced Tuesday.

Newsom last summer asked residents to voluntarily cut water use by 15% compared to 2020. He encouraged people to water their yards less often, run dishwashers less and install more efficient appliances.

The state’s conservation rate gradually increased, aided by some intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand. But the first three months of 2022 have been some of the driest ever recorded. Water use increased slightly in January and February before exploding in March as more people started watering their lawns.

It was the most water Californians have used in March since the middle of the previous drought in 2015. Since July, the state has cut its overall water use by just 3.7%.

Newsom responded to the news by pledging to spend an extra $26 million on water conservation programs, in addition to the $190 million he proposed in January. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced residents and businesses would have to reduce outdoor landscape watering from three days per week to two. Irrigation makes up 35% of the city’s water use.

A series of April storms have improved things slightly since March. Still, most of the state’s reservoirs are well below their historic averages. Those reservoirs rely on melting snow to fill up for the dry summer months but the statewide snowpack was at just 27% of its historic average as of April 1.


This story has been corrected to show Californians used the most water in the month of March since 2015, not the most water used in any month since 2015.