Southern Californians asked to continue using water efficiently to prepare for uncertainty of Colorado River water supplies, by increasing storage
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will no longer mandate emergency restrictions on water use for nearly 7 million people after winter storms helped alleviate shortage conditions that severely limited the availability of state water supplies, the Board of Directors decided Tuesday (March 14).
While the board’s action reflects improvements in the availability of State Water Project supplies, storage reserves have been drawn down and significant challenges remain to the region’s other source of imported water – the Colorado River. Metropolitan continues to call on residents and businesses across the region to use water as efficiently as possible to refill storage and prepare for potential steep cuts to supplies from the Colorado River.
“Southern California remains in a water supply deficit. The more efficiently we all use water today, the more we can keep in storage for a future dry year,” One Water Committee Chair Tracy Quinn said. “And as we face climate whiplash, dry conditions could return as soon as next year. Metropolitan is committed to helping residents save water through our expansive rebate and incentive programs.”
The mandated emergency restrictions removed Tuesday had been in place since June 2022 and required six of Metropolitan’s member agencies in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to limit outdoor watering to one day a week or live within volumetric limits. They were implemented after the state announced it would only be able to deliver a minimal amount of water in 2022 through the SWP, which brings water from Northern California to the south. The affected communities had limited access to other water supplies.
“We know these last nine months were a sacrifice for the dozens of communities under mandatory restrictions. On behalf of Metropolitan, I want to express our deep appreciation to all those who helped us stretch our available water supplies to get us through the acute emergency,” said Metropolitan board Chair Adán Ortega, Jr. “We needed a 35 percent reduction in use, and through your remarkable efforts, you achieved that. Thank you.”
Though Metropolitan is no longer requiring these restrictions, local water providers may still have mandatory measures in place. Residents and businesses are encouraged to contact their local water provider for the latest rules on water use in their communities.
From 2020 to 2022, California saw the three driest years in its history, resulting in historic low deliveries from the State Water Project. However, winter storms have helped restore depleted reservoirs, boosted snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and allowed the state, which manages the SWP, to increase the amount of available supplies to Southern California for this year.
Still, the region remains under a water supply alert, calling for consumers and businesses to voluntarily continue to reduce their water use.
“While we certainly appreciate the improved water supply conditions, I want to caution everyone that our challenges are not over. We ask everyone to remain diligent in saving water regardless of the weather,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil.
“We also continue to face major uncertainties on our water supplies from the Colorado River,” Hagekhalil added.
To prevent the Colorado River’s reservoirs from dropping to catastrophic levels, the federal government has directed the seven Basin states that rely on the river, including California, to develop plans to cut their use of the river beginning in 2024. With rapid swings in weather that have become part of the climate reality for California, Hagekhalil said that Southern California is committed to making the necessary investments to safeguard the region’s water supplies.
“These climate conditions are an unfortunate reality that make water management today increasingly challenging,” he said. “But we committed to finding solutions. That means increasing our local supplies and accelerating our Pure Water Southern California water recycling project, replenishing our reservoirs, investing in our water system and helping the region continue their progress in conservation. We are all in this together.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, along with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provides water for 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.