A drought emergency has been declared for all of Southern California as sources of its imported water supplies become further stressed. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 15 (UPI) -- In anticipation of a fourth consecutive dry year, officials have declared a drought emergency for all of Southern California, warning millions of residents that water conservation measures could become mandatory if conditions don't improve.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said Wednesday that its board of directors made the regional drought emergency declaration a day earlier that calls on its 26 agencies that serve some 19 million people to cut their water use or face steep fees.
"Since this drought began, we have been steadily increasing our call for conservation," Adel Hagekhalil, MWDSC general manager, said in a statement. "If we don't have an extremely wet winter, we will need to elevate to our highest level -- a water supply allocation for all of Southern California. Substantial and immediate conservation now and in the coming months will help lessen the potential severity of such an allocation."
Southern California does not produce enough water for all of its residents and businesses and relies upon imported supplies from the Colorado River and the State Water Project, which account for nearly 60% of where its water comes from.
Supplies from both sources have been stressed due to prolonged draughts that have been exacerbated by climate change. In April, the water district had declared its first-ever water shortage emergency.
Early this month, Hagekhalil warned that supply from the State Water Project, which is served by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, could be reduced to a "trickle." And on Wednesday, the utility said it was preparing for additional reductions in supplies from the Colorado River.
"These decreases to both our imported water sources mean everyone across Southern California must take measures to stretch the limited water we have," Hagekhalil said.
"Our initial call for increased conservation region-wide will be voluntary, but if we don't see significant precipitation this winter, Metropolitan may implement a water supply allocation plan for its entire service area, requiring mandatory restrictions across the region."
California has been combating a record drought for years, during which Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly announced investments and regulations in an effort destress supplies.
In July of last year, he urged residents and businesses statewide to reduce their water consumption by 15% compared to 2020 levels.
"Some Southern Californians may have felt somewhat protected from these extreme conditions over the past few years," board chairwoman Gloria Gray said. "They shouldn't anymore. We are all affected."