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Southern California declares first-ever water shortage emergency, imposes unprecedented water usage restrictions, U.S.

oroville dam april 24 2022 sentinel-2

Officials in Southern California have declared a water shortage emergency for the first time ever and imposed unprecedented outdoor water usage restrictions on roughly 6 million people.

The Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors voted unanimously on April 26, 2022, to require six major water providers and the dozens of cities and local districts they supply to impose one of two options: limit residents to outdoor watering once a week or reduce total water use below a certain target.1

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” Metropolitan Water District spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”2

While 2020 and 2021 water years had the least rainfall on record for two consecutive years, January, February and March of this year were the driest three months in recorded state history in terms of rainfall and snowfall

Additionally, Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s main reservoir, reached its lowest point last year since being filled in the 1970s.

The Metropolitan Water District restrictions apply to areas of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely mostly on state water supplied through the district, including some parts of Los Angeles city. 

The water providers must have plans to police their customers, and if they fail to impose the restrictions, they could face fines of $2 000 for every extra acre-foot of water that exceeds their monthly allocation limits, starting in June, according to Metropolitan.3

The entire state of California is in some form of drought conditions, with 40% in extreme or exceptional drought conditions, as of April 21.

us drought monitor california april 21 2022
Image credit: US Drought Monitor

References:

1 The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – Board Action – April 26, 2022

2 Millions must cut water use in drought-stricken California – AP – April 27, 2022

3 6 million Southern Californians face unprecedented order to conserve water – CalMatters – April 26, 2022

Featured image: Oroville Dam, California, U.S. on April 24, 2022. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, The Watchers

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