Conservation Must Continue to Be a Way of Life
After three of the driest years on record, heavy precipitation this winter has boosted California’s snowpack to healthy levels and is helping replenish our depleted reservoirs and groundwater basins.
Winter storms have provided enough short-term relief to our imported supplies from Northern California that the Metropolitan Water District will no longer require emergency restrictions for six of its member agencies and nearly 7 million people that had been in place since June 2022. Thanks to the wetter weather and increased State Water Project allocation, Metropolitan in March also began refilling its storage, including Diamond Valley Lake, for the first time in three years.
The recent swings in weather from dry to wet point to the variable and extreme weather conditions have made managing our water resources increasingly challenging. Conditions in California will turn dry again, possibly as soon as next year, and our other source of imported water — the Colorado River — continues to face major constraints. More than two decades of drought and severely dry conditions have caused reservoirs on that system to drop to historic low levels, jeopardizing the water supply and power generation that the Southwest relies on.
We must prepare for the next dry period by rebuilding our storage reserves, investing in local supplies and our water infrastructure and finding ways to continue reducing our water use. Together, we can build Southern California’s water resiliency in the face of a changed climate.
Lifting Emergency Restrictions
Due to the improved conditions on our water supplies from Northern California, Metropolitan’s board in March took action to remove its Water Shortage Emergency and Emergency Water Conservation Program, which since June 2022 required member agencies dependent on extremely limited water supplies from the State Water Project to restrict outdoor watering to one day a week or adhere to certain volumetric limits.
Through their diligent efforts to save water over the last nine months, these communities in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties helped stretch available water supplies throughout the year.
Some local restrictions may still remain in place. Residents should contact their local water provider for the latest water-use requirements in their communities.
Replenishing Our Storage in an Age of Climate Whiplash
Though recent weather conditions have relieved the most acute emergency for those dependent on the State Water Project, Southern California’s water problems are far from over.
Rapid swings in weather mean that dry conditions could return as early as next year. California remains under a statewide drought emergency and the future availability of our Colorado River supplies is uncertain.
We are taking advantage of this year’s wetter conditions and increased State Water Project allocation to store as much water as possible in Diamond Valley Lake and other storage accounts so that they can be accessed by communities across our service area when the next inevitable dry period returns.
Thanks to these storms, and the efficient water use of Southern Californians, we expect this year to be able to nearly replace all the withdrawals we’ve made over the past three years.
As Metropolitan continues to make major investments to ensure the future water reliability of the entire region, we ask residents and businesses to continue their commitment to making conservation a way of life.
We Must Sustain the Colorado River
Southern California relies on the Colorado River for about 25 percent of its water supply. But the system is in the midst of a 23-year drought, the most serious in 1,200 years. To prevent the system’s reservoirs from dropping to catastrophic levels, the federal government has directed the seven Basin states, including California, to develop plans to cut their use of the river beginning in 2023.
California and the six other Colorado River Basin states have presented Reclamation with two different proposals on how we will cut demands on the river. Reclamation is reviewing those proposals.
While the seven states have not yet reached an agreement on how to reduce use in the near term, these proposals are just a first step; there will be more opportunities to reach a consensus throughout the environmental review process.
We are committed to working with our partners on the river to develop a consensus-based approach to managing drought conditions on the Colorado River.
Ensuring the sustainability of our Colorado River supplies will require the 40 million people and 6 million acres of farmland that depend on this water source to reduce reliance on the river.
Ban on Decorative Turf for Business, Commercial Sectors
For more than a decade, Metropolitan has incentivized the removal of nonfunctional turf, or grass that serves no community or recreational purpose, and its replacement with more sustainable California friendly and native plants. These efforts have had a transformative effect, resulting in the removal of more than 200 million square feet of grass, saving enough water to serve 62,000 homes a year.
That commitment to help the region transition to more climate-appropriate landscapes is stronger than ever.
Metropolitan’s board in 2022 took a step forward to eliminate grass that is purely decorative by adopting a resolution that strongly recommends that cities and local water agencies across Southern California pass ordinances that prohibit the watering and installation of nonfunctional turf, largely in commercial sectors, as well as HOAs.
We encourage the public to continue to take advantage of our rebates to make the transformation at bewaterwise.com.
Investing in Long-Term Solutions, Together
From 2019 through 2022, California experienced the driest three years on record, putting an incredible strain on our water resources and infrastructure and resulting in the most stringent water restrictions in Southern California’s history.
Metropolitan and its 26 member agencies are working together to increase the resiliency of the entire region by building infrastructure, increasing local supplies and storage, expanding partnerships, advancing water-use efficiency and planning for the escalating impacts of climate change.
Metropolitan is also accelerating the development of our Pure Water Southern California water recycling project to create a climate change-resilient water supply, with a goal to begin initial operations in 2028.
It will take a comprehensive, collaborative and innovative approach to ensure we have the water we need for future generations as climate change continues to challenge how we manage our water supplies.