California Declares Supply Alert and Restricts Water

Water supply alert issued in California Water Restrictions

In response to the region's historic drought, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) declared a supply alert. Citizens of Southern California must voluntarily reduce their water consumption to stave off further intense water restrictions and to ensure that the regions storage reserves remain intact. This decision is only a temporary alleviation -- but comes on the heels of an infrastructure bill passed through the US Senate. The bill designates $8.3 billion for water projects and would modernize water pipes and storage, which could further help California stretch its existing water resources through periods of intense drought.

USA Today: Megadrought, water shortage, global warming threatens US Southwest, June 30, 2021.

Why This Matters

The drought sparking this series of legislation is one of the worst on record -- and not just in California -- more than 95% of the US West is currently in a drought. Federal officials have declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River, which via Lake Mead, supplies water to 40 million people in the region. Reservoirs like Lake Mead are at an all-time low and dwindling rapidly after a winter of critically low rain, snowpack loss due to fire, drought, and climate change.

The MWD is one of the largest water suppliers, sending water to about 19 million people across six counties. This supply alert is the agency's first in seven years and the third of four escalating phases in MWD's Water Supply Condition Framework.

CBS News: Colorado River water shortage declared for first time amid historic drought, August 19, 2021.

Go Deeper

California's Governor Gavin Newsom signaled this week that mandatory statewide water restrictions could be coming soon.

A "Wake-Up Call"

Fifty of California's 58 counties are under a state of drought emergency. In July, Governor Gavin Newsom called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 15%.

The Colorado River and the State Water Project are Southern California's primary water sources and at historic lows. Lake Mead supplies water to 25 million people in the West and has dipped to 35% capacity.

And Lake Oroville, one of the State Water Project's largest reservoirs, has dropped so low its major hydroelectric power plant went offline for the first time. The State Water Project has already reduced Southern California's water allocation to 5%, and next year could reduce that allocation to zero.

As drought conditions continue to worsen and climate change accelerates, legislation to rebuild the West's water infrastructure will be vital in keeping the area's crops, wildlife, and residents hydrated.

"This is a wake-up call for what lies ahead. This is climate change," MWD's Chief Operating Officer, Deven Upadhyay, said at a press conference. "This water supply alert sounds the start of a unified message across our region."

CNN: The West's historic drought, August 19, 2021.

CBS: What the megadrought means to the American West, July 18, 2021.

NBC: Lake Mead Hits All-Time Low Water Level, July 15, 2021.