A water shortage emergency was declared by Southern California water officials for the first time ever on Tuesday.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California implemented an “Emergency Water Conservation Program,” restricting outdoor watering to one day a week in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. The restrictions will take effect on June 1.
The action affects some 6 million residents and comes at a time when one-third of the region “faces an emergency because of reliance on severely limited NorCal supplies,” the agency said.
The Metropolitan Water District uses water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project to supply to 26 public water agencies, which provide it to 19 million people, or 40% of the state’s population, the Associated Press reported.
Amid record-dry conditions, the water supply in California’s major reservoirs are at a record low and so the agency doesn’t have enough water to meet demand.
The State Water Project, which gets its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, has estimated it will only be able to deliver about 5% of its usual allocation this year, according to the AP. And so the outdoor watering restrictions will apply to areas that are dependent on the State Water Project.
“We’re requiring these areas to cut back outdoor watering to 1 day a week, but need all #SoCal residents + businesses to save up to 30%,” the water district said in a tweet.
Cities and smaller water suppliers that get water from the district will need to find ways to cut usage or restrict outdoor watering.
The Metropolitan Water District will monitor water use and if the restrictions don’t work, the agency could order an all-out ban on outdoor watering as soon as September, the AP reported.
And water suppliers that fail to comply could face large fines for exceeding their monthly allocations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
California is experiencing one of the driest starts to spring in decades, with the first three months of the year being the driest in recorded state history. Without a heavy dose of April and May showers, the state’s drought is projected to deepen and could lead to stricter rules on water use along with another devastating wildfire season.
The drought conditions are “unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” the water district said Tuesday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had asked Californians to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 15%. But so far, residents have been slow to meet that goal.
The Metropolitan Water District will hold a briefing at 10 a.m. Wednesday to further explain its declaration.