If whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over, as the adage goes, the Bay Area might feel like knocking back a shot and aiming its rhetorical pistols at Southern California.
California's north-south water rivalry revved up Wednesday, a day after a state survey showed that while most of the drought-ravaged state modestly reduced its water consumption, coastal Southern California is headed in the wrong direction.
It increased its water use by 8 percent in May compared with the average of the three previous Mays. And because the Golden State's most populous region wasn't pulling its weight to heed Gov. Jerry Brown's urgent calls for voluntary water cutbacks of 20 percent, the rest of the state must suffer with tough new fines, many Northern California residents lamented.
"Everybody is all about themselves in Southern California," seethed Kip Miller, who with his wife, Darsi, owns L.C. Action, a police supply store in San Jose. "Here we have companies like Tesla and Google that are doing things every day that are better for the planet. But down there, they have all those Beverly Hills lawns and movie stars and high-dollar landscapers."
Don't blame us, Southern Californians shot back, insisting they have pushed conservation to a new level and that the survey was simply a snapshot of one month.
At least for the short-term, the state's survey resurrected California's long-running water war that three decades ago defeated the plan to build a Peripheral Canal to move water from the Delta to Central Valley farms and the Los Angeles megalopolis.
Alarmed by the lack of conservation -- and rain -- the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Tuesday to impose the first-ever statewide restrictions on outdoor water use, with violations punishable by fines of up to $500 for such things as hosing down driveways and over-watering the grass.
"I am glad they will be fining these seemingly entitled (Southern Californians) for wasting what is basically our water," fumed Julie Wolfe, a resident of Brookdale in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
When Brown in January called on Californians to cut water usage voluntarily, many water officials -- particularly those in the Southland -- pointed out that they've been building new water storage and handing out rebates for water-efficient toilets and washing machines for years.
"The fact is that urban California in particular is better prepared for this drought than it has been for any drought in its history," Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, said Wednesday. "It has kind of shielded the water user."
The drought "doesn't seem as big of a deal," Andrew Rossignol, a 32-year-old musician, said Wednesday as he washed his car in the driveway of his home in Santa Ana, which the state's survey outed as one of the worst cities at conserving.
Water agencies in Southern California say the single-month snapshot is easily skewed by things like leaks, new customers, varying temperatures and rebounding economies.
"When you look at a longer period of time, we're still using less water -- about 10 percent less -- than we were five years ago," said Francie Kennedy, water conservation coordinator for San Juan Capistrano, which ranked second on the state's list of water hogs.
Officials also noted that many Southern California localities had already cut their water use far more than the rest of the state before the current drought began, giving them a lower "starting point."
Michelle Vargas, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said the city uses 17 percent less water now than it did in 2009, before its current conservation law took effect, and now uses only 129 gallons per capita per day -- substantially less than the state average of 196. "This has been a way of life in the city of Los Angeles," she said.
Santa Ana said the state's numbers are just plain wrong. They showed Santa Ana's water production up 63.6 percent in May compared to an average of the three previous Mays. But Nabil Saba, the city's water resources manager, provided figures Wednesday showing the increase actually is only 10 percent.
Max Gomberg, a senior environmental scientist with the state water board, said cities and water districts submitted their own data for the survey, so any mistakes probably came from them.
Santa Ana already has a conservation ordinance in place, Saba said, but this was an abnormally hot and dry spring, and building permits are surging as the economy improves. And given past conservation efforts, he said, "it does make it more difficult to ask people to conserve when they're already using less than most others."
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California sells water to Santa Ana, San Juan Capistrano and about two dozen other cities and water districts. Using 2007 -- when the state was last in a drought -- as a baseline, water demand there is down about 15 percent, district spokesman Bob Muir said.
The truth is, agriculture still soaks up almost 80 percent of California's water, and what Southern California residences and businesses do has practically nothing to do with the Bay Area's water shortage.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District customers cut their water use substantially in February, March and April compared to recent years. But to see the urgency, local residents need look no further than their own withered backyards.
"We can say, 'Well, I'm not going to save until I see L.A. empty their pools,'" said district spokesman Marty Grimes. "But that's not going to make any difference to our groundwater supply or our reservoir storage."
The Associated Press contributed this report.