Water District Eases Emergency Restrictions

Water supplies from the State Water Project are carried to Southern California via the Los Angeles Aqueduct. - Photo courtesy city of Los Angeles

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California withdrew emergency restrictions on water use for Burbank and nearly 7 million people in surrounding cities after winter storms helped alleviate severe water shortage conditions in the state, the Board of Directors decided Tuesday.
Burbank Water and Power is not looking to change the restrictions they have in place for residents with MWD’s decision.
“At this time yeah, we’re considering more a way of life, just with the unpredictability of the future rain conditions, even into next year,” Sustainability Officer Drew Johnstone told the Leader.
Right now, Burbank residents are restricted to watering one day a week on Saturdays before 9am and after 6pm up to 15 minutes per station. But, on April 1 will change to two days a week: Tuesdays and Saturdays for no more than 10 minutes at each watering station.
“Our stage three watering schedule changes between April and October to two days a week, and then November to March is when it’s one day a week. We expect less rain between April and October, so that’s why we’re allowing two days a week watering to keep landscapes healthy,” said Johnstone.
While the MWD board’s action reflects improvements in the availability of State Water Project supplies, California’s groundwater supply, storage reserves have been drawn down and significant challenges remain to the region’s other source of imported water – the Colorado River. MWD continues to call on residents and businesses across the region to use water as efficiently as possible to refill storage and prepare for potential steep cuts to supplies from the Colorado River.
“Southern California remains in a water supply deficit. The more efficiently we all use water today, the more we can keep in storage for a future dry year,” One Water Committee chair Tracy Quinn said in a statement. “And as we face climate whiplash, dry conditions could return as soon as next year. Metropolitan is committed to helping residents save water through our expansive rebate and incentive programs.”
The mandated emergency restrictions removed Tuesday had been in place since June 2022 and required six of Metropolitan’s member agencies in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to limit outdoor watering to one day a week or live within volumetric limits. They were implemented after the state announced it would only be able to deliver a minimal amount of water in 2022 through the State Water Project, which brings water from Northern California to the south. The affected communities had limited access to other water supplies.
“We know these last nine months were a sacrifice for the dozens of communities under mandatory restrictions. On behalf of Metropolitan, I want to express our deep appreciation to all those who helped us stretch our available water supplies to get us through the acute emergency,” said Metropolitan board chair Adán Ortega Jr. “We needed a 35% reduction in use, and through your remarkable efforts, you achieved that. Thank you.”
From 2020 to 2022, California saw the three driest years in its history, resulting in historic low deliveries from the State Water Project. However, winter storms have helped restore depleted reservoirs, boosted snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and allowed the state to increase water deliveries to Southern California for this year, up to 35% from the previous 5% allocation.
Still, the region remains under a water supply alert, calling for consumers and businesses to voluntarily continue to reduce their water use.
“While we certainly appreciate the improved water supply conditions, I want to caution everyone that our challenges are not over. We ask everyone to remain diligent in saving water regardless of the weather,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil.
“We also continue to face major uncertainties on our water supplies from the Colorado River,” Hagekhalil added.
To prevent the Colorado River’s reservoirs from dropping to catastrophic levels, the federal government has directed the seven states that rely on the river, including California, to develop plans to cut their use of the river beginning in 2024. With rapid swings in weather that have become part of the climate reality for California, Hagekhalil said that Southern California is committed to making the necessary investments to safeguard the region’s water supplies.
“These climate conditions are an unfortunate reality that make water management today increasingly challenging,” he said. “But we are committed to finding solutions. That means increasing our local supplies and accelerating our water recycling project, replenishing our reservoirs, investing in our water system and helping the region continue their progress in conservation. We are all in this together.”
— Mia Alva contributed to this report.

First published in the March 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.