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Environment & Science

MWD, state water officials predict dry year ahead for Southern California

Much of the State Water Project is comprised of pipelines that carry water south.
Much of the State Water Project is comprised of pipelines that carry water south.
Dept. of Water Resources

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Top officials from the state’s Department of Water Resources and the Metropolitan Water District warn that drought and dry conditions could reduce water supplies next year.

Southern California still has healthy reserves of water – for now. The Metropolitan Water District’s Jeff Kightlinger says upgrades to the region’s reservoirs mean we’ve banked enough water for a dry year. 

The concern is the water sources that supply the local reservoirs. The states that feed the Colorado River are in drought, and the river’s two big reservoirs in Arizona, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are less than half full.

The other major source of Southern California water, the State Water Project, is hamstrung by dry conditions and species protection that have limited water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

“Those declines in population have triggered more and more restrictive measures to protect those fish and thereby reduce the opportunities we have to move water through the state water project,” says Mark Cowin, from the state’s Department of Water Resources.

MWD's Kightlinger says saving water is increasingly more important, particularly as more people move to the region.

“Our goal is to have a sustainable system where basically we keep sales of water relatively flat as we continue to grow,” he says. “So we want our use of water to remain flat and yet we continue to add people to southern California.”

Kightlinger says MWD is pushing conservation with new and expanded incentives. At the same time, he supports the state’s proposal to build water tunnels underneath the Delta region -- a plan that is costly, ambitious, and controversial.

Cowin, from the Department of Water Resources, says no “silver bullet” can solve the state’s water woes.

“We need continued investment in water conservation. We need more water recycling. We need better flood management and storm water management to help restore our aquifers. We need better groundwater management,” he says. “All of those actions together complement one another and provide for a reliable water supply."