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By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Californians again earned good grades for water savings last month, cutting overall urban use by 31 percent compared with July 2013, officials said Thursday.

“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Millions of conscientious Californians are the real heroes here — each stepping up to help local water resources last longer in the face of a historic drought with no certain end date.”

To reach the goal of a 25 percent reduction in overall statewide urban water use, the state board assigned water districts individual targets requiring them to cut local consumption by as much as 36 percent compared with 2013 levels.

In June — the first month the targets were in effect — statewide water use fell by 27 percent.

Last month’s even bigger water savings were undoubtedly boosted by rare summer storms. About a third of an inch of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles, breaking a record for July precipitation that had stood since 1886.

Despite the good report card, some urban water districts have fallen well short of their targets. In June, 16 suppliers missed their goals by 15 or more percentage points. Last month four districts fell into that category.

Those that repeatedly get a bad report card face potential state fines of as much as $10,000 a day.

The conservation order, issued by Gov. Jerry Brown, is the first mandatory reduction in urban water use in California history. It is transforming the look of yards across the state. Many lawns that had remained conspicuously green during the first three years of drought are now straw-colored — or gone altogether.

Enticed by generous turf-removal rebates, Southern Californians are ripping out more than 150 million square feet of grass and putting in drought-tolerant plants.

Cities, barred from using drinking water to irrigate grass on street medians, have erected signs explaining the reason for the dried-up turf.

Photo: The median on north Santa Anita Avenue is going brown to adhere to state water regulations on July 14, 2015 in Arcadia, Calif. The state cut overall urban water use by 31 percent last month compared with July 2013. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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