Southern California areas told to cut water use by 35% finished June on track to stave off an outdoor watering ban.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California supplies those communities in Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties with Northern California water delivered by the State Water Project. After a record dry start to the year, the state limited its deliveries to just 5%.
In response, Metropolitan required millions of its customers to cut outdoor watering to one day a week or find other ways to conserve.
Choosing one-day-a-week watering allowed agencies to avoid financial penalties for using too much water. But they face an outdoor watering ban as soon as September if they don’t reach Metropolitan’s water-savings goal.
Nearly a month after the restrictions took effect June 1, the agencies’ water use was 4% under cap.
Brad Coffey, Metropolitan’s resource manager, said the district was pleased with the progress.
“We know how much of a challenge it is to meet that 35% reduction in supply,” he said.
But officials say it’s too soon for a victory dance with the hottest, driest months of the summer are still to come.
An ‘epic’ drought
The first of their kind restrictions were brought on by extraordinary drought conditions, Coffey said.
“The southwestern US is in a drought of epic proportions,” he said.
Amid a years-long drought, California recorded its driest January, February and March on record this year. The US Drought Monitor now classified nearly all of California – 97% – in severe to extreme drought.
State emergency regulations require water districts to address a 20% water shortage and ban watering lawns on commercial, industrial and institutional properties.
Metropolitan added strict restrictions for its agencies that depend on state water – a list that includes the Thousand Oaks-based Calleguas Municipal Water District.
Metropolitan looks at whether these agencies have met the conservation goal collectively — and so far they have done so.
But customers in the Calleguas district, which supplies roughly 75% of Ventura County’s population, from Simi Valley to the Oxnard Plain, haven’t fared as well.
As of June 28, Calleguas’ agencies collectively used more than their allotment, according to Dan Drugan, the district’s resource manager. The latest figures released June 28, show the local region about 17% over Metropolitan’s target for the region.
‘All in this together’
Though last month’s water demand dropped roughly 25% over June 2020, Calleguas’ customers need to step up conservation efforts so the overall trend continues, Drugan said.
Metropolitan proposed the one-day-a-week watering as an option knowing that it was uncertain exactly how much water it would save and how quickly the savings would show up, Coffey said.
Some agencies will conserve more or less water at different times, he said. Ones that saved more in June tended to rely more on other supplies, such as groundwater.
“We’re really thinking of this as one pool of water that we’re all trying to responsibly manage,” Coffey said. “We’re all in this together.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0260.