Why Some Lucky Southern Californians Can Use All the Water They Want

It all comes down to where you live, and where your water comes from

There may be a megadrought and new water-usage restrictions on the horizon, but they won’t affect every area of Southern California.

Some areas, like Santa Monica, Long Beach, Torrance and Beverly Hills, won’t have restrictions at all. Why not? It all depends on where your water supply comes from, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That’s because the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California focused the current restrictions on areas that depend on the California State Water Project—a major water supply in Northern California that gathers water from rivers in Northern California and channels them south through a series of aqueducts. It’s a source that officials say “faces a real risk of running dry,” the Times reports.

The areas that do not face restrictions get their water from other places—like the Colorado River, or groundwater—sources that aren’t (currently) in danger of running low. As MWD spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said, the areas that will not face restrictions “are getting sufficient Colorado River supplies or local supplies to meet demand.”

This strategy has its pros and cons. Some say the strategic picking and choosing who gets restrictions and who doesn’t simply doesn’t go far enough during times of dire drought. For example, the Colorado River’s reservoirs are at its lowest levels ever, reinforcing the idea that no source is safe over the long, or even short, term.

“The real question is, why not just do it for the entire [MWD] service area?” said Felicia Marcus, a researcher at Stanford University’s Water in the West Program. “It may be most acute for these particular areas in this particular year, but I think increasingly we have to take a longer view than we’re used to.”

In other words, as long as the drought has no immediate end in sight, aother major water supplier—the Colorado River—is also at risk, and yet its use goes unrestricted.

Part of a long-term solution, Adel Hagekhalil, the MWD’s general manager told the Times, is “real investments in recycled water, real investments in stormwater capture, real investments in storage.”

An order for emergency water-usage restrictions hit Southern California on Tuesday, with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declaring a water shortage. An order for once-a-week outdoor watering restrictions is to take effect June 1 and will impact nearly 6 million people.

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