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County water use falls by 26% in September

The San Diego region recorded its fourth consecutive month of significant water-use reductions since state mandates started in June, decreasing urban potable water use by 26 percent in September compared to September 2013, according to preliminary numbers released Tuesday by the San Diego County Water Authority.

From June through September, regional water consumption dropped by 27 percent compared to the state’s baseline period in 2013, beating the regional aggregate target of 20 percent. The Water Authority says conservation has allowed the agency to store water locally for future use and reduce purchases of imported water supplies should the drought continue into 2016.

September temperatures were about 7 degrees above average for the month, and water year 2015 -- which ended Sept. 30 -- was the warmest ever for California, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Current projections are for temperatures to remain above average statewide during the fall and winter, potentially making it harder to conserve water and more difficult to accumulate snowpack.

Climatologists also say there is a strong likelihood -- 95 percent -- that El Niño conditions will continue through the winter. El Niños often, but not always, deliver above-average rainfall to Southern California. But even if California gets substantial precipitation, it will most likely take more than one wet winter for California to emerge from the current drought, which is among the most severe in recorded history.

The State Water Resources Control Board has set mandatory conservation targets for Water Authority member agencies between 12 and 36 percent below 2013 levels. Those targets are scheduled to remain in place through February.

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