About 6 million southern Californians ordered to cut water use amid drought

Southern California’s giant water supplier has taken the unprecedented step of requiring nearly 6 million people to cut off watering outdoors one day a week like prolonged drought ravages the state after another dry winter.

The Southern California Metropolitan Water District council on Tuesday declared a water shortage emergency and is requiring certain cities and water supply agencies to implement the June 1 cut and enforce it or face hefty fines.

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water isn’t there,” said district spokeswoman Rebecca Kimitch. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”

Metropolitan Water District restrictions apply to areas of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties that rely primarily on state water provided by the district, including some parts of the City of Los Angeles. The affected areas are mainly urban.

USA-CALIFORNIA-DRY WATER
A man waters his lawn in Alhambra, California on April 27, 2022, the day after Southern California declared a water shortage emergency, with unprecedented new restrictions on outdoor irrigation for millions of people living in the counties. of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images


The purpose of limiting water use for lawns, plants and things like cleaning cars is to save water now for indoor use in late summer when water use increases, Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Water District uses water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project – a vast storage and distribution system – to supply 26 public water agencies that supply water to 19 million people, or 40% of the state’s population.

but register dry conditions overloaded the system, 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 supply only about 5% of its usual allocation for the second year in a row. .

January, February and March this year were the three driest months on record in the state’s history in terms of rainfall and snowfall, Kimitch said.

The Metropolitan Water District said the 2020 and 2021 years of water 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 supplied in the 1970s.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has urged people across the state to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 15%, but so far residents have been slow to reach that goal.

Several water districts have instituted water conservation measures. On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Northern California voted to reduce water use by 10% and limit daily use to about 1.4 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. , including Oakland and Berkeley.

Households will be able to use 1,646 gallons (6,231 liters) a day — far above the average household use of about 200 gallons (757 liters) a day — and the agency expects only 1% to 2% of customers to exceed the limit, it said. the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Gabriel Reservoir Nearly Dry as California Faces Worsening Drought
The San Gabriel Reservoir is seen on June 29, 2021, in the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa, California. The reservoir was almost completely dry after an extremely low rainfall winter in Los Angeles County.

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The Metropolitan Water District’s six client water agencies in areas affected by Tuesday’s council 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 is equivalent to about 325,850 gallons (about 1.23 million liters).

In turn, it will be up to local agencies to determine how they will apply irrigation restrictions to their clients. Upadhyay noted that an exception allows hand-watered trees to maintain “ecologically important treetops”.

The Metropolitan Water District will monitor water use and, if restrictions do not work, could order a total ban on outdoor irrigation in affected areas as early as September.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have taken the first step to lower the standard for how much water people use in their homes.

California’s current standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons (208 liters) per person per day. The rule does not apply directly to customers, meaning regulators do not cite individuals for using more water than is permitted. Instead, the state requires water agencies to meet this standard on 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 starting in 2025 and 42 gallons (159 liters) per person per day starting in 2030.

The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, meaning it is still months away from becoming law.

The western US is in the midst of a severe drought just a few years after record rains and blizzards filled the reservoirs to full capacity.

Scientists say this boom-bust cycle is driven by climate change that will be marked by longer and more severe droughts. A study earlier this year found that the western US was in the midst of a megadrought which is now the driest in at least 1,200 years.

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