How We Plan

Southern California’s
Water Planner 

Ensuring water reliability for 19 million Californians is no small task. The majority of Southern California’s imported water sources are located hundreds of miles away. And those supplies are increasingly under threat from climate change, longer periods of drought and earthquakes. Through these challenges, Metropolitan must remain reliable. Planning is key.

As a major water planner for the Southland, Metropolitan is tasked with looking days, months, years and decades ahead to foresee the needs of the region, and the challenges we might encounter. We seek out innovative solutions and make strategic decisions and smart investments to fulfill our mission of delivering reliable, high-quality water now and into the future.

Drought 2021: Proven Reliability

After navigating three major droughts in as many decades, California has once again plunged into drought. But Southern California is more prepared than ever, thanks to sound planning, smart investments and a conservation ethic that has become a way of life. We must continue to plan and be prepared for future challenges.


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California Aqueduct

Urban Water Management Plan

Metropolitan demonstrates its ability to meet expected water demands in the region for the next quarter century, even under drought conditions, through its Urban Water Management Plan. Required by the state, the plan provides a summary of Metropolitan’s anticipated water demands and supplies through 2045, and shows we will meet demands under normal water years, single dry-years, and five-year drought sequences. At the center of Metropolitan’s 2020 UWMP plan is its diverse portfolio of water resources, including imported supplies from the Colorado River and State Water Project; local projects offering water recycling and groundwater recovery; short- and long-term water transfers; storage, both inside and outside of the region; and continued investment in water-use efficiency and demand management.


The plan describes implementation strategies and schedules and other relevant information and programs. The UWMP, prepared as part of the 2020 Integrated Water Resources Plan planning process, is updated every five years in compliance with the California Water Code. The Water Shortage Contingency Plan includes Metropolitan's efficient management and planned actions to respond to actual water shortage conditions. It improves preparedness for droughts and other impacts on water supplies under varying degrees of water shortages.  The WSCP complies with the California Water Code and is updated as needed. 


2020 UWMP


Water Shortage Contingency Plan


2020 Reference Materials


2015 Reference Materials


Highlights of the 2020 UWMP and WSCP


  • Metropolitan has water supply capabilities sufficient to meet expected demands under normal water year hydrologic conditions, a single dry year condition and a period of drought lasting five consecutive water years.

  • The reliability assessment recognizes the long-term impact of investments in demand management along with a diversified resource portfolio with programs for the Colorado River Aqueduct, State  Water  Project, Central Valley storage and transfers, local resources, and in-region storage. 

  • Metropolitan has comprehensive plans to address frequent and severe periods of droughts, with progressive actions for shortage conditions including greater than 50 percent shortage and a catastrophic interruption in water supplies.

  • Metropolitan regards water quality with paramount importance to water supply reliability, ensuring that delivered water meets or surpasses all state and federal drinking water standards. 

  • Metropolitan faces a number of challenges in providing adequate, reliable, and high-quality supplemental water supplies for Southern California, including dramatic swings in annual hydrologic conditions, long-term hydrologic changes due to climate change, operational constraints on the State Water Project, and water quality challenges such as algae toxins, PFAS, and the identification of constituents of emerging concern.  These challenges are addressed through a variety of actions for supply development, demand management, and water quality protection.
Lake Mathews Headworks

Water Surplus & Drought Management Plan

Our Water Surplus and Drought Management Plan provides a framework for managing Metropolitan’s resources in periods of surplus and shortage to help achieve 100 percent water reliability for Southern California. To reach this goal, the plan’s guiding principle is to store and manage water available during wet periods and work collaboratively with member agencies to minimize the impacts of water shortages in dry years. At the start of the year, Metropolitan develops an initial plan for both wet and dry hydrologic conditions, and then regularly Metropolitan evaluates available water supplies and existing water storage levels to determine the appropriate management actions identified in the plan.

The WSDM Plan has served Metropolitan and Southern California well over the years, through both dry and wet periods. Thanks to this comprehensive water management strategy and actions we’ve taken to strengthen our reliability, Metropolitan ended 2020 with a record amount of water in storage.

Long-Term Conservation Plan

Metropolitan and its member agencies have long been leaders in water conservation, a fundamental component to Southern California’s water reliability. In 2009, at the urging of Metropolitan and its member agencies, the California Legislature mandated urban retail water providers to achieve a 20 percent per-capita reduction in water use by 2020. To support this goal, which also is outlined in Metropolitan’s 2010 IRP Update, our board adopted the Long-Term Conservation Plan, which identified the strategies and actions to reach that target.

Metropolitan exceeded this reduction five years ahead of schedule in 2015, thanks in part to an emergency statewide drought declaration urging residents and businesses to limit their water use. We’ve worked to help Southern Californians continue their water-saving ethic by creating lasting changes in consumer values, incentivizing the purchase of water-efficient devices, conducting outreach and education, and advocating for smarter building and plumbing codes.

Target Reduction for 2020 graphic

Prepared for the Big One


Metropolitan is prepared to ensure Southern California has water even in a worst-case scenario: a major earthquake. We have programs to improve the resilience of our infrastructure against earthquakes and we’re prepared to respond in case of emergency and restore our systems as quickly as possible.  We also have emergency reserves set aside in the event our imported supplies are cut off while repairs are being made. Our Seismic Resilience Strategy is a multi-faceted approach that involves coordination among several key areas within Metropolitan as well as close collaboration with the California Department of Water Resources and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, owners of the other two major imported water conveyance systems of the region, to enhance regional seismic resilience.

Drought gardens