Metropolitan Water District declares drought emergency for Southern California

The Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors has declared a regional drought emergency for the Southern California region as the agency prepares for a fourth consecutive dry year, the MWD announced today.

The resolution, adopted by the district’s board on Tuesday, calls for water agencies to immediately reduce imported supplies. It could become a mandatory reduction if drought conditions persist. The district may begin allocating water supply to its 26 agencies by April.

Long Beach Water Department officials have already implemented measures to cut back on water use, so it’s unclear for now what impacts the declaration will have on Long Beach residents. Over the summer, Long Beach residents cut their water use by 15% using just voluntary measures, but an emergency declaration could still lead to mandatory cuts. And beyond that, if water gets more expensive, water bills could grow.

Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the district, said in a statement that if the region does not see an “extremely wet winter,” it may need to begin allocating water supply.

“Substantial and immediate conservation now and in the coming months will help lessen the potential severity of such an allocation,” Hagekhalil said.

Roughly 60% of the Long Beach potable water supply comes from local groundwater, and the rest is purchased from the MWD.

The MWD imports around half of its water supply to Southern California from the Colorado River and the northern Sierra, but supplies from those sources have been reduced in recent years by the drought. The past three years saw the lowest deliveries in water supply from the Colorado River and the Sierra to the Southern California region in history.

“Conditions on the Colorado River are growing increasingly dire,” said Gloria D. Gray, the board’s chair. “We simply cannot continue turning to that source to make up the difference in our limited state supplies. In addition, three years of California drought are drawing down our local storage.”

Gray added that some residents may have felt “somewhat protected from these extreme conditions over the past few years.”

“They shouldn’t anymore,” Gray said. “We are all affected.”

Staff writer Jason Ruiz contributed to this report.

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