Los Angeles has grown by about a million people in the last three decades, but you wouldn't know it from the way water has been trickling out of taps and sprinklers.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported Monday that water usage in the city reached a 31-year low for the month of February, dropping more than 20% compared with the same period in 2007.
Officials tied the decrease to water rationing that went into effect in 2007. The rationing was prompted by the ongoing regional drought.
The best conservers were residents of single-family homes, who used nearly 30% less water as compared with February 1997.
In all, Angelenos cut their water use by nearly 30 billion gallons in the last nine months, enough to supply the cities of Long Beach and Santa Monica combined.
"These are efforts that are compounding on each other, and it's been very successful," said Jim McDaniel, head of city water operations. "What we're hoping is that people are learning to live with these wiser water habits in a way that hopefully doesn't negatively impact their lifestyle."
Recent winter rains probably factor into the reduced demand for water, McDaniel acknowledged, but he pointed to ongoing evidence that the city's water conservation program has cut away at consumption at an impressive clip.
Demand for water last June, for instance, reached a 32-year low.
DWP regulations, which limit days of the week, hours of the day and duration of watering, have been criticized for causing brown lawns and thirsty gardens.
The regulations also may have inadvertently led to the high number of water main breaks last year. A report issued Tuesday blamed the strict water conservation policy, in part, for the rash of breaks, saying the city's aging pipes could not handle the fluctuations in pressure.
The new figures show that water-saving rules have taken hold even in winter. In the past, the utility has had trouble getting people to turn off timers on their sprinkler systems, even during rain.
The reminders may have finally sunk in, McDaniel said.
With water supplies, reservoir levels and snowpack still less than adequate, DWP officials cautioned customers that they will continue to be asked to conserve.
"We're by no means out of the woods," McDaniel said.