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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
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Unprecedented water restrictions hit Southern California today

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Get ready for short showers and brown lawns: More than 6 million Southern Californians will be placed under new drought rules today in an unprecedented effort to conserve water.

More than 97% of the state is now under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Many of the region’s most critical reservoirs are at half capacity or less.

The restrictions are a response to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s urgent call for a 35% reduction in water use following California’s driest-ever start to the year. MWD’s board has never before issued such severe cuts, but said they were left with little recourse after state officials slashed deliveries from the State Water Project to just 5%, reported by LA TIMES.

“We have not had the supply to meet the normal demands that we have, and now we need to prioritize between watering our lawns and having water for our children and our grandchildren and livelihood and health,” MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said during the agency’s announcement at the end of April.

As a wholesaler, MWD has aimed its cuts at parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that are dependent on supplies from the State Water Project, a vast network of canals, pipelines, reservoirs and pumping facilities that transport water from Northern California rivers to farmlands and cities to the south.

Six agencies that receive water from MWD will be affected by the rules: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, Calleguas Municipal Water District, Three Valleys Municipal Water District and Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District.

Several of those agencies are themselves wholesalers that provide water to dozens of smaller regional suppliers.

Areas that get water from another major source in the region, the Colorado River, have been spared for now, although officials have warned that it is also reaching critical lows.

Each agency is taking a slightly different approach to achieving the required reduction, meaning there is a patchwork of rules across the region. Most are focusing their restrictions on outdoor watering since it accounts for roughly half of all urban water use.

MWD’s largest member agency, LADWP, is limiting its entire service area — that is, nearly everyone in the city of L.A. — to two-day-a-week watering at only 8 minutes per station per day, or two 15 minute-cycles per watering day for sprinklers with water-conserving nozzles.

Residents will be assigned watering days based on their addresses: Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Thursday and Sunday for even ones. No watering will be allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. regardless of the watering days.

Those who don’t comply with the new rules will receive a warning, followed by escalating fines for each subsequent violation, officials said. LADWP will ramp up patrols to look for people violating rules or wasting water.

Some agencies, including the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, are going a step further and opting for one-day-a-week watering limits. That agency provides water to about 75,000 residents in Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village.

Others, including the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and the Ventura-based Calleguas Municipal Water District, both wholesalers, are tapping each of their member agencies to institute the best plans for their areas. Some will go to one-day-a-week watering, while others are sticking to volumetric allocations based on available supplies, officials said.

The West Basin Municipal Water District, which supplies water to residents in areas including Culver City, El Segundo, Inglewood and Palos Verdes Estates and Malibu, is also calling for two-day-a-week watering limits across its service area.

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