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Weather Extremes Threaten Our Water Resources
Conservation Must Continue to Be a Way of Life
After three of the driest years on record, heavy precipitation this winter has boosted California’s snowpack to healthy levels and are helping replenish our depleted reservoirs and groundwater basins.
Winter storms have provided enough short-term relief to our imported supplies from Northern California that Metropolitan will no longer require emergency restrictions for six of its member agencies and nearly 7 million people that had been in place since June 2022. Thanks to the wetter weather and increased State Water Project allocation, Metropolitan in March also began refilling its storage, including Diamond Valley Lake, for the first time in three years.
The recent swings in weather from dry to wet point to the variable and extreme weather conditions that have made managing our water resources increasingly challenging. Conditions in California will turn dry again, possibly as soon as next year, and our other source of imported water – the Colorado River – continues to face major constraints. More than two decades of drought and severely dry conditions have caused reservoirs on that system to drop to historic low levels, jeopardizing water supply and power generation that the Southwest relies on.
We must prepare for the next dry period by rebuilding our storage reserves, investing in local supplies and our water infrastructure and finding ways to continue reducing our water use. Together, we can build Southern California’s water resiliency in the face of a changed climate.
Lifting Emergency Restrictions
Due to the improved conditions on our water supplies from Northern California, Metropolitan’s board in March took action to remove its Water Shortage Emergency and Emergency Water Conservation Program, which since June 2022 required member agencies dependent on extremely limited water supplies from the State Water Project to restrict outdoor watering to one day a week or adhere to certain volumetric limits.
Through their diligent efforts to save water over the last nine months, these communities in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties helped stretch available water supplies throughout the year.
Some local restrictions may still remain in place. Residents should contact their local water provider for the latest water-use requirements in their communities.
Replenishing Our Storage in An Age of Climate Whiplash
Though recent weather conditions have relieved the most acute emergency for those dependent on the State Water Project, Southern California’s water problems are far from over.
Rapid swings in weather means that dry conditions could return as early as next year. California remains under a statewide drought emergency and the future availability of our Colorado River supplies is uncertain.
We are taking advantage of this year’s wetter conditions and increased State Water Project allocation to store as much water as possible in Diamond Valley Lake and other storage accounts so that they can be accessed by communities across our service area when the next inevitable dry period returns.
Thanks to these storms, and the efficient water use of Southern Californians, we expect this year to be able to nearly replace all the withdrawals we’ve made over the past three years.
As Metropolitan continues to make major investments to ensure future water reliability of the entire region, we ask residents and businesses to continue their commitment to making conservation a way of life.
Conservation Makes Us Stronger
Southern California receives water from three aqueducts: The Colorado River Aqueduct, which we own and operate; the California Aqueduct, which carries our share of State Water Project supplies; and the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which serves the city of Los Angeles.
Today, we consider local resource development and conservation our “fourth aqueduct,” supplementing our imported supplies and strengthening our resiliency to drought and climate change.
The great news is that Southern Californians have embraced a conservation ethic – per capita water use has dropped nearly 40 percent since 1990, despite an increase in population.
Without conservation, the effects of drought would be more swift and more severe. Every drop saved is another drop we can store for dry periods.
Metropolitan and our member agencies are here to help with water-saving tips and rebates to help residents and businesses make the transition from lawns to beautiful, sustainable landscapes. There are also rebates to pay for water-efficient indoor plumbing devices for homes and businesses. Visit bewaterwise.com for water-saving tips and information on rebates.