Southern California’s giant water provider has taken the unprecedented step of requiring nearly 6 million people cut off your outdoor watering one day a week like prolonged drought state pests after another dry winter.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s board declared a water shortage emergency Tuesday and is requiring certain cities and water agencies they serve to implement the cut by June 1 and enforce it or face heavy fines.
“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. There is no water,” district spokeswoman Rebecca Kimitch said. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
The Metropolitan Water District’s restrictions apply to areas of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely primarily on state water supplied through the district, including some parts of the city of Los Angeles. The affected areas are mainly urban.
The goal of limiting water use for lawns, plants and things like car cleaning is to save water now for indoor use later in the summer when water use increases, Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan District Southern California Water Authority said Wednesday.
The Metropolitan Water District uses water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project, a vast storage and supply system, to supply 26 public water agencies that provide water to 19 million people, or 40% of the population. of the state.
but record dry conditions have put the system to the test, lowering reservoir levels, and the State Water Project, which gets its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, has estimated that it will be able to deliver only about 5% of its allocation usual, for the second year in a row.
January, February and March of this year were the three driest months in the state’s recorded history in terms of rainfall and snowfall, Kimitch said.
The Metropolitan Water District said that 2020 and 2021 years of water it had the lowest rainfall recorded for two consecutive years. In addition, Lake Oroville, the main reservoir for the State Water Project, reached its lowest point last year since it was filled in the 1970s.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked people across the state to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%, but so far residents have been slow to meet that goal.
Several water districts have instituted water conservation measures. On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District in Northern California voted to reduce water usage by 10% and limit daily use by some 1.4 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda, including Oakland and Berkeley.
Households will be able to use 1,646 gallons (6,231 liters) per day, well above average household use of about 200 gallons (757 liters) per day, and the agency expected only 1% to 2% of customers to exceed the limit, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The Metropolitan Water District’s six client water agencies in the areas affected by Tuesday’s board action must implement the one-day-a-week outdoor use restriction or find other ways to make equivalent reductions in water demand. .
If local agencies fail to meet reduction targets, they will be fined up to $2,000 per acre-foot of water, Metropolitan Water District Executive Director Deven Upadhyay said Wednesday. One acre-foot equals about 325,850 gallons (about 1.23 million liters).
In turn, it will be up to local agencies to determine how they will enforce irrigation restrictions on their customers. Upadhyay noted that an exception allows trees to be watered by hand to maintain “ecologically important tree canopies.”
The Metropolitan Water District will monitor water use and, if the restrictions don’t work, could order a complete ban on outdoor watering in affected areas beginning in September.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have taken the first step toward lowering the standard for how much water people use in their homes.
The current California standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons (208 liters) per person per day. The rule doesn’t apply directly to customers, which means regulators don’t cite people for using more water than allowed. Instead, the state requires water agencies to meet that standard for all of their customers.
But the state Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to lower the standard to 47 gallons (178 liters) per person per day beginning in 2025 and 42 gallons (159 liters) per person per day beginning in 2030.
The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, meaning it is likely months away from becoming law.
The American West is in the midst of a severe drought just a few years after record-setting rain and snowfall, the reservoirs were filled to capacity.
Scientists say this boom-and-bust cycle is driven by climate change that will be marked by longer and more severe droughts. A study from earlier this year found that the western US was in the midst of a mega drought that’s now the driest in at least 1,200 years.