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Addressing Climate Change
Climate change presents a monumental long-term challenge to the reliability of Southern California's water supplies. Every watershed our region depends on is becoming more stressed and less dependable. While Metropolitan has conducted long-range planning for its water resources portfolio since the mid-1990s with our Integrated Water Resources Plan we are updating our long-term projections to account for the complexities and uncertainties of climate change through our new Climate Adaptation Master Plan for Water.
In addition to adapting Metropolitan's water delivery and storage capacities to meet the challenges posed by a changing climate, we also have committed as an organization to reducing our carbon footprint through our Climate Action Plan. Our recent annual progress report highlights the strides we've made as an organization to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to remain on target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.
Extreme weather conditions in recent years - abruptly swinging the state from periods of severe and extended drought to record-setting wet seasons - have presented Southern Californians with an unsettling preview of the challenges ahead. There is no question that climate change is here and putting mounting pressure on the year-to-year management of our available water resources. To ensure the continued reliability of water supplies for the communities we serve, Metropolitan is developing our Climate Adaptation Master Plan for Water. This comprehensive effort will provide the roadmap that will guide our future capital investments and business model as we confront our new climate reality in the years and decades ahead.
We are not starting from scratch. We are building on Metropolitan's Climate Action Plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions along with the detailed scenario planning we performed for our 2020 IRP Regional Needs Assessment, and our leading role in developing creative and cooperative regional solutions to the challenges our region faces.
A New Era of Collaboration & Engagement
Founded nearly a century ago to bring a new source of water for a growing Southern California, Metropolitan has long been a leader in finding innovative long-term solutions that support our member agencies and the entire region. Given the magnitude and scope of climate change, Metropolitan's commitment to collaboration and building consensus is more important than ever.
Our "stronger together" approach to creating the CAMP4W is rooted in collaboration and transparency. We are soliciting input from across Southern California about regional priorities and concerns. This feedback will inform our board's decisions regarding climate-focused capital investments and will be followed by additional rounds of engagement in the years ahead.
“Whatever is done should be done for the benefit of the whole, and whatever is done for the benefit of the whole should be shared by the parts.”
—W.P. Whitsett, Metropolitan's first board chair, 1930
Improving System Resilience
The record-low water deliveries we received from the State Water Project between 2020 and 2022 revealed a vulnerability in Metropolitan's regional water delivery system that impacted six of our 26 member agencies and nearly 7 million people. Due to existing constraints of the water delivery system, as well as limited access to other local supplies, these communities were forced to rely on extremely reduced water deliveries from the SWP. Metropolitan enacted emergency drought reductions to ensure these communities had enough water to get through the extreme drought.
Our board has since made a commitment to address these inequities and fast-tracked a number of construction projects to improve water supply reliability for all member agencies. To date, we have secured $50 million from the state to help offset the cost of these projects.
Metropolitan also is analyzing additional long-term improvements that will be presented through the CAMP4W process. Our goal is to create a drought-resilient network of facilities that strengthens the region's water supply reliability.
Expanding Our Water Resource Portfolio
The challenges of the future require us to invest in more local supplies and conservation, while preserving and extending the use of our imported water supplies.
For decades, Metropolitan has incentivized local supply projects through the Local Resource Program, which offers financial incentives for member agencies to develop and expand the network of local resources across Southern California. This initiative has resulted in recycled water programs, groundwater storage initiatives and desalination projects.
Through our CAMP4W process, we are pursuing collaborative partnerships that will provide additional regional benefit at appropriate economies of scale. For example, our Pure Water Southern California regional recycling project, a joint venture with Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, could become one of the world's largest water purification programs, producing up to 150 million gallons of new water supply daily. Another partnership with Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency to develop the High Desert Water Bank could provide Metropolitan more than 91 million gallons of additional storage, with nearly 23 million gallons of those reserves accessible on an annual basis.
Ensuring Equity, Affordability & Financial Sustainability
While many Californians understand the challenges facing water reliability, most also are concerned about the cost of water. With particular attention to equity, affordability and financial sustainability, we're committed to offsetting the costs of our strategic climate adaptation investments through creative cost-sharing partnerships and the pursuit of additional state and federal funding. Since 2022, we've received more than $150 million in funding for projects that are giving us an early start on CAMP4W implementation.
Climate Adaptation in Action
Metropolitan is adapting to more extreme weather patterns and climate whiplash with smart planning, investments in diverse supplies and storage opportunities and critical partnerships across the regional, state and federal levels.
We’ve increased our storage by more than 13 times since 1990, and we’ve built a large conveyance pipeline that allows us to quickly move water into that storage. With annual snowpack projected to dwindle over the next century, these investments provide a valuable opportunity to capture water in wet years and save it for dry ones.
We’ve made our system more flexible. This allows us to push alternative water supplies further into our delivery network when our Colorado River or State Water Project supplies are reduced due to drought conditions.
We’ve invested more than $500 million in recycled water projects, as a drought-resilient water source. Our Pure Water Southern California program could become one of the largest advanced water purification facilities in the world.
We’ve invested nearly $864 million in conservation programs, helping reduce per capita potable water consumption in Southern California by about 40 percent since 1990.
We recognize the need to preserve and protect our imported water supplies through coordinated ecosystem restoration efforts and infrastructure upgrades. Our recent initiatives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta include collaborative ecosystem restoration projects and maintaining water quality by improving levees and reversing land subsidence. Proposals for the Delta Conveyance and Sites Reservoir projects will be evaluated through the CAMP4W process.