The drought in California continues to impact the state and has forced a water supplier to create “emergency” conservation efforts for the first time, impacting around 6 million individuals.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s (MWD) board announced a Water Shortage Emergency, putting forward an emergency program “requiring member agencies in State Water Project-dependent areas, home to 6M #SoCal residents, to restrict outdoor watering to 1 day a week,” per an announcement on Twitter from the district.
“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” district spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said, according to CBS News. “This is unprecedented territory. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, told The Daily Wire that farmers have already been feeling the effects of low water delivery before this most recent move. It doesn’t apply to them as they have already had their water drastically cut, and this affects outdoor watering in urban areas.
“It has already impacted farmers. They’ve already borne the brunt of the drought,” Wade said, adding they “are facing what is essentially a 95% water supply cut.”
The district said that one-third of its region, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties “faces an emergency because of reliance on severely limited NorCal supplies.”
MWD gets its water from the State Water Project (SWP) and the Colorado River, both of which have low levels.
The district is mandating these regions reduce outdoor watering, but the board included in its announcement an executive order by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom from March. In it, Newsom pushed for “urban water suppliers to conserve more than required by the emergency regulations” described in the order. He encouraged them “to voluntarily activate more stringent local requirements based on a shortage level of up to thirty percent.”
The district said it is showing support for items in the governor’s directive, and pressing for all urban water suppliers to act to cut water use by 20 to 30%, “depending on local conditions.”
They have also said that the “past three years are projected to be the driest in our state’s history, leading to drought conditions unlike anything we’ve experienced before.”
The new water cutbacks go into effect on June 1, per The Washington Post, as municipalities and smaller suppliers with connections to the district will need to cut outdoor water usage or reach specific monthly allocation restrictions.
Fines will be enforced for those who don’t live up to the new standards — at $2,000 per acre-foot of water supplied by the agency that goes over the restrictions. The board of directors for the district announced in a report that the “[p]enalties would be enforced monthly beginning in June.”
It also pointed out that “penalties will only be applied to Metropolitan supplies delivered from the SWP system,” which means if one of the agencies decides to move its needs to other supplies or the connections with the Colorado River, it won’t be penalized in a specific month.
The board also noted that if the district requires intense conservation efforts in “the SWP Dependent Area,” then the California Department of Water Resources will give more supplies to reach the needs of water for human health and safety standards.
Other areas of the state are being impacted as well, and some are taking their own precautions. On Tuesday, East Bay Municipal Utility District in Northern California’s board voted to cut down on water use by 10% and limit daily water use for around 1.4 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which include Berkeley and Oakland.
According to a government drought monitor, more than 95% of the state is in a severe drought, with almost 41% in extreme drought.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack has gotten better over the past few weeks, but is still low at 35% of its regular levels, per a report from U.S. StormWatch’s Twitter account.
The California Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center showed the snow water equivalents were at 32% for the northern Sierras, 39% for the central, and 21% for the southern. The data were provided for April 28.
The culmination of multiple dry years has created problems for California’s water supply in a state that is already dry, but home to much of the country’s agricultural output.
Wade said that while this is a severe drought, part of the reason for the situation is that California didn’t adequately prepare for it, and didn’t create water storage in the past to get ready for a drought.
While residents of California often agree with conservation efforts and understand the importance of them, they also argue that additional efforts might be necessary.
Governor Newsom has pushed for a focus on conservation initiatives because of the drought, but some say different policies are needed in order to cut government regulations and allow water contractors to implement new programs to provide more water to their customers who need it.
Farmers are making difficult decisions regarding their livelihood. Some choose to fallow their land by letting the land remain uncultivated. Some switch over to crops that can return a higher profit, such as organic produce. Such processes take several years to implement, though, and the turnaround might not be enough time for certain farming families — especially those in the Central Valley where low water is drastically impacting the region as well.
Due to the cuts farmers already faced, Wade said there are “increasing amounts of land fallowing and reduced production of food products that would have normally come from those acres.”
He said for this year, everything is being done that can be done “in terms of cutting allocations,” which ultimately leads to consumers feeling the impact with higher prices, less food availability, and more dependance on foreign imports.