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Water restrictions lifted for 7 million in SoCal, but region still urged to conserve

Mandatory water restrictions are being lifted for nearly 7 million people across Southern California following winter storms that swelled reservoirs and alleviated a severe shortage that emerged during the state’s driest three-year period on record.

The Southern California Metropolitan Water District board decided to end the emergency conservation mandate for agencies in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely on supplies from the State Water Project. Officials said the change reflects improvements in available supplies, but urged residents and businesses to continue conserving to help address what is still a water deficit and prepare for expected cuts in supplies from the river’s depleted reservoirs. Colorado.

“This year’s very wet weather has improved our water supply conditions enough that we no longer need to place the most severe restrictions we had on nearly 7 million people,” said Brad Coffey, Metropolitan’s water resources manager. “But because we have to refill our storage that has been depleted by this drought, and because of the prolonged drought on the Colorado River, we are still asking consumers to conserve. Conservation allows us to recharge storage and be prepared for another dry year.”

The MWD board’s decision Tuesday ends emergency drought measures that were imposed in June 2022, which required six of the district’s member agencies to restrict outdoor watering to one day a week or reduce general use to stay within certain limits.

The measures were aimed at addressing critical shortages last year at the State Water Project, the system of aqueducts and reservoirs that transport water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to southern California.

The series of atmospheric river storms has dramatically alleviated the water supply deficit since January. Agencies that rely on supplies from the State Water Project were only able to get 5% of their full allocations last year, but with the storms and rising reservoir levels, state officials have told agencies that may receive 35% of the requested water. supplies, and that figure is expected to rise further with the latest storms.

The San Luis Reservoir, one of the large reservoirs feeding the State Water Project, has been brought up to 88% of its full capacity, with water being delivered south to raise the levels of Lake Castaic and other reservoirs.

MWD delivers water that its member agencies serve 19 million people in six counties.

In December, district officials had said that if conditions did not improve, they anticipated implementing a region-wide allocation to address the shortage, which would have meant a shift toward water rationing and mandatory restrictions throughout Southern California.

Now the situation has “changed enough” that the district doesn’t need to implement water supply allocation starting this summer, Coffey said. “We don’t need to take the next step, although we really do need consumers to continue to use water efficiently.”

On average, about a quarter of Southern California’s water supply comes from the Colorado River, where reservoir levels have fallen to record lows due to chronic overuse and 23-year drought made worse by rising temperatures.