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When it comes to hearing news about the drought, it’s usually one bad thing after another. Whether it’s a doom and gloom prediction about El Nino’s diminishing potential or another scary picture of an almost-empty reservoir, the way things have been going this year it’s certainly felt like no news at all is good news.

But thankfully this time there is some good mixed in with the not so great. New numbers have been released for California’s water use so far this summer, and while there is certainly still room for improvement we as a state have made good headway on conserving water. According to data from the State Water Resources Control Board, water usage in California has declined an average of 7.5% in the month of July as compared to the same time last year. That is of course a far cry from the 20% reduction that was called for by Governor Jerry Brown when he made his drought proclamation back in January, but it is at least a positive sign that the residents of California are starting to understand just how serious this drought really is.

Things were getting worrying back in May, when it turned out that instead of saving water people actually increased their water usage by 1.5%. That was naturally an averaged number, and a great many places throughout the state had done their part to cut back on their water consumption. But thankfully that trend reversed itself thanks to the hard work of various agencies and groups who made it their mission to inform the public of the severity of the drought and all of the ways that they could work together to save water. Those efforts coupled with restrictive measures such as mandatory water regulations and fines for wasting water have all done their part to make sure that California is using less water.

Some areas and districts did better than others. The Sacramento region came through with the highest percentage of water savings, dropping their water usage by 19.5% from last year. The Bay Area was second with a 13% reduction, while down at the low ends of the scale the Los Angeles and San Diego areas only reduced their consumption by 1.7%. Overall, Northern California saved a great deal more water by percentage than their Southern California counterparts, although the reasons for that disparity may not be as simple as they immediately seem. While it may appear that Southern Californians may have just slacked off on their conservation efforts, the truth is actually more likely that a combination of weather patterns and overall lower water consumption may be behind it. The Los Angeles and San Diego areas already used far less water than areas of Northern California such as Sacramento and Fresno – 152 gallons a day in Los Angeles as compared to 313 gallons a day in Fresno – so there was far less room for them to save water to begin with.

However despite the disparity in water savings by region, these results from the State Water Resources Control Board have made two things very clear. First, the fact that we as a state have turned around our water usage from an increase to a decrease in the hottest part of the summer shows that the message about water conservation is finally getting out there. Californians want to save water, and we have started taking the steps that are necessary to make sure we can preserve our resources for the future. Whether it’s cutting back on watering lawns, taking shorter showers, or ripping out lawns all together, people are coming together to make a difference in their water futures. However, the numbers also show that while we are making strides there is still a lot more to be done. We have not yet reached the 20% savings target that we are all striving for, and with the weather forecast getting bleaker by the day we must prepare for the eventuality that the drought will continue. This means being even more vigilant with our water use and making sure that we practice sustainable habits to get us through this drought.

We’ve done a lot of good work as a state, and that hard work and determination that’s gotten us there doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. If we continue down this path and keep making the smart decisions and personal sacrifices that have gotten us this far, we can save all of the water we need to get through this drought together.