Drought emergency declared for all Southern California

As California faces a fourth straight year of drought, officials at Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District have declared a regional drought emergency and urged water officials to immediately reduce consumption of all imported supplies.

The MWD board’s decision came about eight months after officials declared a similar emergency for 7 million people who depend on supplies from the State Water Project, a vast network of reservoirs, canals and dams that transport water from Northern California . Residents who depended on California’s other main supply — the Colorado River — were not included in this emergency declaration.

“Conditions on the Colorado River are getting worse,” MWD Chair Gloria Gray said in a statement. “We simply cannot continue to turn to this source to make up the difference in our limited government supplies. Additionally, three years of California drought is dragging our local camps down.”

Officials said the call for conservation could become mandatory if drought conditions persist in the coming months, which some experts say is likely. By April, MWD will consider allocating supplies to all of its 26 affiliates, prompting them to either reduce their use of imported water or face hefty additional fees.

“Since the onset of this drought, we have steadily raised our call for conservation. Unless we have an extremely wet winter, we need to reach our highest level — a water supply allotment for all of Southern California,” said MWD executive director Adel Hagekhalil. “Substantial and immediate conservation now and in the coming months will help reduce the potential severity of such an allocation.”

MWD member agencies, which include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Orange County’s Municipal Water District and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, will implement voluntary and mandatory conservation actions at the local level based on their unique circumstances, officials said. In the meantime, those who have local supplies or other alternative options might be able to rest assured.

The LADWP, which imports state, federal and Owens Valley water via the Los Angeles Aqueduct, has been under Stage 3 of its Water Scarcity Contingency Plan since June, including restrictions on outdoor watering two days a week.

But about half of the MWD’s imported water comes from the State Water Project and half from the Colorado River — both are “extremely stressed by ongoing drought, which is being exacerbated by climate change,” the agency said.

The Colorado River has fallen to such an all-time low that officials said it could reach “dead pool” levels, or a point where the water falls below the lowest inlet valve. California and six other states that rely on the river have been pressured by the federal government to drastically reduce their use.

In October, some California water agencies, including the MWD, pledged consumption reductions of up to 400,000 acre-feet per year, or about 9% of the state’s total 4.4 million water allocations from the river by 2026.

The State Water Project was under similar pressures. The driest three water years on record in California resulted in record-low shipments to Southern California, and earlier this month state officials said they may allocate just 5% of requested shipments next year unless drought conditions improve significantly.

Mandatory measures in areas dependent on the state water project will last at least until June next year and possibly longer, the MWD said. They urged residents to continue their conservation efforts, including reduced watering in yards and gardens.

“Some Southern Californians may have felt a little protected from these extreme conditions in recent years,” Gray said. “They shouldn’t anymore. We are all affected.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-12-14/drought-emergency-declared-for-all-southern-california Drought emergency declared for all Southern California

Alley Einstein

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