Millions of Southern Californians ordered to cut outdoor water usage amidst drought

Though there have been record dry conditions, many are blaming poor water management for the problem. There has been no improvement to water storage infrastructure in the past 50 years, nor creation of efficient water storage.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

Southern California’s water supplier on Tuesday ordered approximately 6 million residents to reduce their outdoor watering to one day a week in response to the ongoing drought.

According to the Associated Press, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s board has declared a water shortage emergency, and will require the cities and water agencies that it supplies to implement a cutback on water usage on June 1 and enforce it, or face heart fines.

Metropolitan Water District spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said, "We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there. This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before."

The Metropolitan Water District restrictions apply to areas of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, including some parts of the city of Los Angeles. Most urban centers in those areas are impacted.

The Metropolitan Water District utilizes water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project to supply 26 public water agencies that provide water to 40 percent of the state’s population. The State Water Project, which obtains its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, has estimated it will only be able to deliver approximately 5 percent of its usual annual allocation.

Although the water agencies support the water conservation move, it remains unclear if the public will comply. The Metropolitan Water District could order an all-out ban on outdoor watering as soon as September if the restrictions don’t work.

Though there have been record dry conditions, many are blaming poor water management for the problem. There has been no improvement to water storage infrastructure in the past 50 years, nor creation of efficient water storage.

The lack of storage is especially problematic given the West Coast’s boom-and-bust cycle between having a severe drought only a few years after record rain and snowfall filled reservoirs to capacity.

Additionally, a proposed California desalination plant that could have produced 50 million gallons of drinking water per day has been bogged down in regulatory red tape which may doom the project, according to Reuters. The state, which borders the Pacific Ocean, has been slow to embrace desalination technologies utilized by countries in the Middle East.

Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked people to reduce their water consumption by 15 percent. Farmers in the state have blamed Newsom, as well as previous governors, for failing to dam rivers or build new reservoirs.

On Tuesday, the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District voted to reduce water usage by 10 percent and cap daily usage for 1.4 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including Berkeley and Oakland.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are working on lowering the standard for how much water people use in their homes. California’s current standard for residential indoor water use is 55 gallons (208 liters) per person per day. However, the California Senate overwhelmingly voted last week to lower the standard to 47 gallons (178 liters) per person per day starting in 2025 and 42 gallons (159 liters) per person per day beginning in 2030. The bill has not yet passed the Assembly, and is likely months away from becoming law.


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