By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Drought-parched California exceeded state conservation goals for the third straight month in August, making it through most of the hottest and driest part of the year as rains linked to the oceanic and weather phenomenon El Nino usher in the fall.
Residents and businesses were under orders from Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to reduce water use by 25 percent and managed to conserve 27 percent, compared to 2013, by holding off on watering lawns and filling swimming pools, among other strategies, the State Water Resources Control Board said.
"We must all keep up the good work because no one knows how much longer this historic drought will continue," said water board chair Felicia Marcus.
Water consumption had been down 27 percent in June and 31.4 percent in July.
California is in its fourth year of devastating drought that has drained aquifers, led farmers to fallow thousands of acres of agricultural land and helped fuel a spate of deadly wildfires.
Brown declared the drought to be an emergency in January 2014 and earlier this year ordered businesses and residents to cut water usage by 25 percent.
The successful summer conservation results were announced as the state experienced mild showers, which many hoped indicated the beginning of a rainier fall and winter, spurred by the oceanic phenomenon known as El Nino, which typically brings rainfall to the southern part of the state.
The weather phenomenon does not always bring crucial rain to Northern California or the mountains, where snowpack that melts in the spring provides waters to the state's streams and reservoirs throughout summer months.
"We are hoping for all the rain and snow that we can safely handle," Marcus said on Thursday. "We are preparing for drought and flooding at the same time."
She cautioned that Californians must continue to conserve water even if the fall and winter are rainy, because in the long term, the state will face warmer and drier conditions as global warming continues.
In parts of California, hot and dry conditions continue through October, Marcus said.
(Editing by Bill Trott)