The Drought Emergency: Confronting the Challenge Together

The Drought Emergency: Confronting the Challenge Together
Nov. 18, 2021
By Gloria G. Gray, Chairwoman, Metropolitan Water District

Recently the Metropolitan Water District Board declared a drought emergency. The action reflects the seriousness of the state’s water situation and Metropolitan’s commitment to navigate this challenge hand in hand with our 26 Member Agencies and our state and federal partners.

Declaring the emergency is Metropolitan’s way to signal that we all need to prepare for the worst as we hope that a bountiful rain season replenishes our statewide water system. A wet October has been followed so far by a relatively dry November. The right and prudent thing to do is to assume that the drought is not over.

What does that mean for Southern California? There is no single answer. A community that relies on ample local groundwater may not experience the same impacts as one that relies on the State Water Project (SWP), which has very low storage. We are trying to maximize local control while sending the right regional signals. And we are pledging to look for ways to improve water supply reliability for communities that face the most acute potential of shortage so that we emerge from this experience with an even better water system.

Metropolitan imports two supplies, one from the Colorado River, via our own Colorado River Aqueduct, and the other from Northern California, via the SWP. Not all of our communities have equal access to both of these supplies, based on our distribution system. Some in the northern portion of our service area are much more dependent on the Northern California supply. This region is where the drought emergency declaration is designed to translate into greater conservation. The more we can lower demand, the longer we can stretch our available water supplies into the coming winter as the weather season unfolds.

Times like this can test a region. But we have been fortunate to have nearly a century-long tradition of tackling our water challenges as One. That regional fabric, through consensus-based water management actions by Metropolitan, is holding strong.

The operations staff at Metropolitan continues to work tirelessly to find ways to manage our available supplies in a way to maximize reliability for the entire region. Los Angeles, for example, has been using more water from the Colorado River and less from the SWP, despite some operational challenges, as a way to maximize the SWP reserves that we still have. This truly has been a team effort. From San Diego to Ventura, you are seeing stepped-up calls by local water agencies to take this drought seriously and conserve.

We fully expect that our initial allocation of SWP supplies for the coming year will be zero. That will be adjusted depending on what Nature has in store for us. A dry 2022 undoubtedly would mean more restrictions in at least some communities, particularly on outdoor water use. The drought emergency sets the stage for how we all move forward into the new year. Together we can make it through this challenge. There is no better time to minimize your water use than right now.