Calif. Metro Water Board Declares Supply Alert

Less than a week after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought, Metropolitan Water District's Board of Directors declared a Water Supply Alert for its six-county service area.

To help preserve the region's water storage reserves, the board urged cities, counties, local public water agencies, and retailers to achieve extraordinary conservation by adopting and enforcing drought ordinances, accelerating public outreach and messaging, and developing additional local supplies.

"In declaring this Water Supply Alert, we are confident that consumers and businesses throughout the Southland will take additional steps to reduce water use and eliminate waste," said Metropolitan board Chair Timothy F. Brick.

"In the past, residents have responded to a call for action. We are depending on their help again to stave off the need to allocate supplies in the future," Brick said.

Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said the board's acceleration of the regional water-saving call is aimed at increasing awareness of the Southland's critical supply conditions and the immediate need for conservation. Metropolitan's main sources of imported supplies are facing unprecedented challenges because of record dry conditions for eight of the last nine years along the Colorado River and deteriorating environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, he noted.

Since 2003, Metropolitan's Colorado River supplies have been diminished by as much as half after California reduced its use of river water because of drought. The district's State Water Project supplies from Northern California have been cut by nearly 30 percent this year because of dry conditions and court-ordered pumping restrictions in the Delta to protect endangered fish.

To meet current water demands, Metropolitan and its member agencies are withdrawing supplies from surface and groundwater storage, leaving the region's reserves vulnerable to continued low-levels of imported water and emergencies, such as a major earthquake. Over the past two years, Metropolitan has drawn down its stored dry-year reserves by nearly half.

"Now that the drought is official, consumers need to realize that water rationing looms should voluntary water-saving efforts not prove enough, particularly if we faced shortages that compelled our board to implement the district's recently adopted supply allocation plan," Kightlinger said.

"But just as real as the drought is, so too are the possibilities we can avoid rationing. We have all the tools for reducing water use. Now we have more incentive," he added.

Measures that could be incorporated into local drought ordinances include restrictions on the hours of watering outdoors, where up to 70 percent of water is used; prohibitions on landscape irrigation runoff; tiered rate structures that promote conservation; provisions for water-efficient landscapes in new construction and landscape retrofits; and hotlines and other mechanisms for the public to report wasteful water practices.

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