SoCal Gets Emergency Order to Limit Water Use During ‘Megadrought’

As California’s drought worsens, the Metropolitan Water District has declared a water shortage emergency and implemented restrictions

Southern California is taking some drastic steps in the hope of weathering the ongoing drought.

The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared a water shortage emergency on Tuesday, implementing restrictions on water use throughout the city and at the water agencies it supplies beginning June 1.

Those who do not abide by the new restrictions in affected areas of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties will face fines.

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

The MWD uses water from both the Colorado River and the State Water Project to supply 26 public water agencies that provide water for 40 percent of the state’s population—a significant 19 million people.

As it stands, 40.8 percent of the state of California is said to be in an “extreme drought,” as classified that the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). This number rose substantially from last month when it sat at 37.7 percent.

This level, otherwise known as “D3,” is a result of inadequate water for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs, as well as alarmingly low reservoirs and restricted hydropower.

January, February, and March of this year marked the driest months in recorded state history, and the 2020 and 2021 water years tallied up the least rainfall on record for two consecutive years.

In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15 percent.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” Newsom previously said in a statement.

However, earlier this month, it was reported that total water usage in California cities and towns went down less than one percent in February as compared to the same month in 2020.

The state’s current standard for residential water use is 55 gallons per person, per day. This measure is applied to water agencies rather than customers and requires the agencies to meet the standard across the areas they serve.

Last week, the state Senate acted to combat the ongoing drought by overwhelmingly voting to lower the standard to 47 gallons per person each day starting in 2025 and gradually moving to 42 gallons per person in 2030. The bill still has to pass the Assembly.

As the drought worsens, Californians can expect to see more restrictions rolled out. A climate change study from earlier this year found that the U.S. West is now in the driest period it has seen in at least 1,200 years.

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