Water restrictions ordered for Southern California

Southern California officials on Tuesday took the unprecedented step of declaring a water emergency and ordering outdoor use to only one day a week for about 6 million people in Los Angeles counties , Ventura and San Bernardino.

The restrictions on outdoor watering will go into effect June 1 as determined by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and will apply to areas dependent on water from the drought-ravaged Water Project. .

“We are seeing conditions unlike anything we have ever seen before,” said Adel Hagekhalil, superintendent of the school district. “We need a serious reduction in demand.”

MWD’s board has never taken such a step before, and the resolution passed by the wholesale water company would introduce the first large-scale water restrictions imposed in Southern California during the drought. current severe drought.

The California drought, now in its third year, has become the driest on record and is increasing due to hotter temperatures caused by climate change. With the state’s major reservoirs running low, MWD has run out of water in parts of Southern California.

“These areas are dependent on extremely limited supply from Northern California, and there is not enough supply to meet normal demand in these areas for the rest of the year,” said Hagekhalil.

The MWD Board of Directors voted unanimously to pass emergency measures to “reduce non-essential water use” in some areas. Cities and smaller water suppliers that receive water from MWD are required to start limiting outdoor watering to one day a week, or find other ways to cut usage down to row allocation limits. new month.

Any water supplier that does not comply could face large fines from MWD for exceeding their monthly allotment.

The State Water Project delivers water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmlands and cities in the south. The project includes canals, pipelines, reservoirs, and pumping facilities that transport water to approximately 27 million Californians.

After a record dry start through 2022, California water officials have slashed projected project deliveries this year to just 5% of the full allocation.

Areas that are heavily or completely dependent on the State Water Project include counties northwest of LA and Ventura, parts of the San Gabriel Valley, and parts of the Inland Empire.

MWD imports water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, which serves 26 public water agencies across six counties, supplying 19 million people, about half the state’s population.

District officials wrote that these measures are intended to conserve water supplies and “ensure that short-term human health and safety needs can be met.”

“We’re working together to tackle this really, really difficult and quite frankly, unprecedented problem. None of us liked what we were doing. But we are in a position where we have to do it,” said Steve Blois, an MWD board member representing the Calleguas City Water District. “The question is how can we overcome the current drought without running out of water to serve the health and safety needs of the people? That should be our number 1 priority. ”

Officials from Calleguas, which supplies water to a large portion of Ventura County, plan to meet to approve measures to respond to the declaration of emergency. Anthony Goff, general manager of Calleguas, said the measures are necessary because the climate is “changing faster and in ways that are not hydrologically desirable and the impact of temperature on the ice cover”.

This year and the previous two years have brought the region the lowest amount of water on record from the State Water Project, said Brad Coffey, the county’s water resources manager. As local water suppliers adopt the cuts, Coffey said, MWD will provide nearly $4.5 million to help with enforcement and other related program costs.

Some water suppliers in the region have imposed restrictions. For example, in LA West County, the City of Las Virgenes Water District reduced a customer’s water budget by 50%, with penalties for violations.

Governor Gavin Newsom in July urged Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%, but the state has yet to meet that goal. Last month, Newsom ordered urban water suppliers to take more aggressive conservation measures, requiring them to activate “Level 2” of their local drought contingency plan to prepare for the future. water shortage. The governor also directed the state water board to consider a ban on “non-functional” lawn irrigation on businesses and other real estate.

During a meeting Tuesday, managers of parks in Ventura County told the council they hoped the rules would not lead to a “one size fits all” approach meaning parks. pellets with dead grass. Hagekhalil responded that the district aims to implement the measures in a manner consistent with municipalities and local agencies’ drought ordinances and plans. But he also warned that more severe restrictions, including a possible outright ban on outdoor irrigation, may be necessary if the drought persists.

“If these plans make an exception to preserve public sports fields or parks … then we plan to accommodate that,” Hagekhalil said. “Decision making is at the local level. And we realize that. It should be noted, however, that if we have to reduce to deeper stages, such as a total outdoor irrigation ban, the local exceptions will understandably start to disappear. “.

Several people who called to speak said they were concerned restricting water could lead to more tree deaths. Peter Kraut, a member of the Calabasas City Council, called the restrictions “crazy but not unexpected”.

“I am appalled that such a drastic change is happening in such a short period of time,” Kraut said. “This plan not only resulted in brown grass but also killed countless trees. The damage to our environment will take decades to repair. Bidders will spend millions of dollars removing dead trees and planting new ones. ”

Others echoed concerns about the trees, saying that as water restrictions go into effect, it will be important for local agencies and residents to have information on how to get grass to brown in the water. while keeping the tree alive.

Tracy Quinn, MWD board member representing Los Angeles, said she hopes the district can make the information available to member agencies and customers, as Las Vegas has done, “to make sure that the tree Our mortars are protected.”

“This is not just a dry period. There’s also extreme heat that comes with it, and we need to make sure we can protect against the heat island effect and heat-related illnesses,” Quinn said.

Other council members said they supported the restrictions but also stressed it was important to help areas that are heavily or fully dependent on the State Water Project to access other water sources, such as like the water of the Colorado River.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

(Courtesy of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California)

“Everybody is in a drought situation. But the fact that only some of us are impacted by actual water shortages is now a serious concern,” said Heather Repenning, a board member representing Los Angeles. “And we really needed to find a fix that would allow us to access memory in a fair way.”

Hagekhalil said MWD is working on infrastructure projects “to diversify and provide the plumbing needed to move Colorado water to these areas” and also create alternative water sources.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity officials are considering their next steps based on the emergency declaration of MWD shortages.

“LADWP has been closely following the policy recommendations reviewed by the MWD Council today. We will continue to work closely with City and MWD officials in the coming weeks,” Ellen Cheng, a spokeswoman for the DWP, said in an email.

The city has had watering restrictions for more than a decade and now allows outdoor watering three days a week.

“Additional water use restrictions need to be balanced with the high levels of conservation achieved by LADWP clients,” says Cheng.

In addition to water from the state project, Los Angeles also receives water from the Eastern Sierra and the Colorado River.

The Colorado River, which supplies water to seven states and Mexico, is in short supply for the first time. Its large reservoirs have fallen to record lows.

Quinn said that with severe shortages on the Colorado River, she thinks it may be time to consider extending water restrictions to other parts of Southern California.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-04-26/mwd-declares-water-emergency-and-restricts-outdoor-watering Water restrictions ordered for Southern California

Edmund DeMarche

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