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California Battles The Drought With Successful Conservation Efforts


Hey, this next story is an attaboy to California. The state wants people to cut back water use in a drought. And in July, urban water use dropped 31 percent compared to last year. NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Attention California water officials - if you want a model street for water conservation, check out Anchor Street in Los Angeles' Cheviot Hills. On the corner, landscaper Mario Garcia is leveling off the ground after tearing out a mat of thirsty ivy.

MARIO GARCIA: Try to plant drought-tolerant plants, you know? I mean, to save water.

ROTT: Unlike the ivy.

GARCIA: Mm-hm.

ROTT: A couple of houses down, Dalia Pelleg is inspecting a row of potted succulents where her lawn used to be.

DALIA PELLEG: We removed all of our grass from front and back because of the drought. We want to be water friendly.

ROTT: And across the street from her, David Newey's yard literally crunches underfoot.

DAVID NEWEY: And as you can see, my lawn's pretty dry 'cause I've really cut it back.

ROTT: Los Angeles residents cut their water use by 21 percent in July. Cities around the state collectively cut 31 percent. Felicia Marcus is the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

FELICIA MARCUS: The news is quite good.

ROTT: So good that she can't help but use the state's new water-saving slogan.

MARCUS: People have done a great job letting their lawns go...

ROTT: Wait for it.

MARCUS: ...California golden...

ROTT: Yep, golden, not brown.

MARCUS: ...Which is exactly what we need during the hot summer months.

ROTT: When the opportunity to save water is at its highest. That's great for California's water controllers, who have been urging water conservation since before the state's governor mandated water cutbacks last year. Those cutbacks aimed at 25 percent reductions overall. And in the two months since they've been in place, the state has averaged 29.5. And Marcus says they need to keep it up. Even though a strong El Nino, with its soaking winds and high participation, is predicted, she says the state is in a better-safe-than-sorry mode when it comes to water savings.

MARCUS: We can't roll the dice when we're in the worst drought we've seen since records started being kept.

ROTT: It would take a remarkable amount of rain and snow, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountains, to end that drought. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.