California Declares Supply Alert, Restricting Water Use in the Region

Image: GillyBerlin via Wikimedia Commons

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared a supply alert — a request for the region to cut water use and prepare for this historic drought to continue. According to the supply alert, citizens of Southern California must voluntarily reduce their water consumption so that the region’s storage reserves remain intact. The supply alert also aims to stave off further intense water restrictions in the future. 

This decision comes on the heels of an infrastructure bill passed through the U.S. Senate that would modernize water pipes and storage in addition to other improvements. The bill designates $8.3 billion for water projects that could further help California stretch its existing water resources through periods of intense drought.

Why This Matters: The drought sparking this series of legislation is one of the worst on record. Federal officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, which via Lake Mead, supplies water to 40 million people in the region. After a winter of critically low rain, snowpack loss due to fire, drought, and climate change, reservoirs like Lake Mead are at an all-time low and dwindling rapidly.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is one of the largest water suppliers, sending water to about 19 million people across six counties. This supply alert is the agency’s first in seven years and the third of four escalating phases in MWD’s Water Supply Condition Framework. 

Go Deeper: California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signaled this week that mandatory statewide water restrictions could be coming soon.

 

A “Wake-Up Call:” As drought conditions continue to worsen and climate change accelerates, legislation rebuilding the West’s water infrastructure will be vital in keeping the area’s crops, wildlife, and residents hydrated.

Fifty of California’s 58 counties are under a state of drought emergency. In July, Governor Gavin Newsom called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 15%. 

Levels for Southern California’s primary water sources, the Colorado River and the State Water Project, which provide the district with about half its water, are historically low. The largest reservoir on the Colorado River, Lake Mead, which supplies 25 million people in the West, dipped into 35% capacity.

Meanwhile, the water level of one of the State Water Project’s largest reservoirs, Lake Oroville, has dropped so low its major hydroelectric power plant went offline for the first time. The State Water Project has already reduced Southern California’s water allocation to 5%, and next year could reduce that allocation to zero.

This is a wake-up call for what lies ahead. This is climate change,” MWD Chief Operating Officer Deven Upadhyay said at a press conference. “This water supply alert sounds the start of a unified message across our region.”

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