Parts of California are officially in a water emergency, according to a declaration from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. On Tuesday, the board of the Metropolitan Water District released a statement announcing “that a Water Shortage Emergency Condition exists in the [State Water Project] Dependent Area.”
As a result, affected people across the region will have to limit their watering of outdoor lawns and gardens to just one day a week starting June 1, and further restrictions could be on the way.
The declaration is the first time in the Metropolitan Water District’s 94-year history that its board has issued restrictions like this, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. “We are seeing conditions unlike anything we have seen before,” the water district’s general manager, Adel Hagekhalil, told the LA Times. “We need serious demand reductions.”
“This is a crisis, this is unprecedented. We have never done anything like this before,” added Hagekhalil in a press conference on Wednesday.
California is currently experiencing arguably its most severe drought since record keeping began in 1895. The present drought is now in its third year and has devastated farmers and the environment alike . For reference, the Colorado River, which supplies about a quarter of Southern California’s water, is at record-low levels .
Through a network of public water agencies, the Metropolitan Water District brings water to about 19 million people in sections of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. The new restrictions will impact about 6 million of those people specifically in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, said Gloria Gray, the chair of the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors in Wednesday’s media briefing.
The board’s new requirements specifically state that affected municipalities must either limit peoples’ outdoor watering to one day per week or directly find other ways to equivalently reduce water use. “I want to just really stress how critical this is,” said Hagekhalil. “The amount of water we have available to us now is not going to be enough to carry us through the entire year unless we do something different, unless we take action,” he added. If municipalities don’t cut their use and abide by the new restrictions, they’ll face fines.
Lawn watering accounts for 30% to 70% of individuals’ water usage, according to the Metropolitan