A new report that compared May 2014 to May 2013 reveals that despite warnings from the state to conserve water, overall consumption by Californians increased 1% during the drought.
The report, which corrected an earlier estimate that said consumption had dropped 5%, came from the State Water Resources Control Board, whose chairwoman, Felicia Marcus, said, according to the Associated Press, “Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is…and how bad it could be. There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.”
On Tuesday, the state board approved fines of up to $500 for wasting water–the first such fines in the state’s history.
Water managers told the board that the fines would be unfair to those who have cut their consumption. Mark Madison, general manager of the Elk Grove Water District south of Sacramento, noted that residents in his district have already rduced their water use by 18% since last year, and said, “What you’re asking me to do right now is to thank them with a sledgehammer,” the AP reports.
The hike in consumption is attributed to southern California coastal communities and the far northeastern part of California. Brown’s request for a 20% drop in consumption was most nearly met by communities that draw from the Sacramento River, who reduced their consumption by 13%.
Cities and suburbs consume roughly 20% of California’s water, while agriculture consumes a whopping 75%, the AP notes.