Amid a mega-drought in California, Southern California water suppliers are taking emergency action to limit outdoor watering to only one day per week in certain counties, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California officials said Tuesday.

“The past three years are projected to be the driest in our state’s history, leading to drought conditions unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” the district said.

The board of directors announced Tuesday that they were declaring a Water Shortage Emergency, meaning agencies dependent on the State Water Project will have to dramatically cut water use.

Southern California residents and businesses are being asked to conserve water and cut down outdoor lawn watering to one day per week.

The District said “Metropolitan does not have enough water this year to meet normal demands in parts of its service area in 2022.”

Here’s what this means.

What Do Current Drought Conditions Look Like in California?

As of April 21, a large swath of California was in “extreme drought,” while much of Southern California was under “severe” and “moderate” drought conditions.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Some 40% of California is under extreme drought conditions, and 95% is under severe drought conditions. All of California remains in some level of drought

In an early March report, extreme drought expanded in southeastern and Northern California despite a series of storms in December. 

Drought conditions have only worsened since then.

California’s snow pack could not make up for the “megadrought” conditions, officials said. As of April 22, the snow pack was “well below-average snowpack numbers.”

When Will Water Restrictions Begin?

The once-per-week outdoor watering change is set to take effect June 1.

Which Areas in Southern California Will Be Affected?

Details were still emerging, and the MWD was set to have a news conference Wednesday morning with more information. It appears northwestern areas of Los Angeles County and parts of the San Gabriel Valley will primarily be affected. MWD’s State Water Project-dependent areas are still being defined.

The district also said while these areas will be under mandatory watering rules, all of Southern California should cut water use by 30%.

What Fines Will Residents or Businesses Face Over Watering Outdoors?

The MWD said water agencies will face fines of up to $2,000 per acre-foot of water if they go over the monthly water limits supplied by MWD. It’s currently unclear how that would trickle down to customers.

Are There Drought-Friendly Lawn Options?

There are options for residents. The MWD offers a turf rebate program if residents convert their lawns to drought resistant landscaping, however, synthetic turf is not an approved option. The MWD offers a $2 rebate per square foot, up to 5,000 square feet of converted yard per year. You can estimate the rebate here.

  • 3 plants per 100 square feet of area transformed
  • A stormwater retention feature
  • No hardscape within the transformed area, except permeable hardscape
  • Replacement or modification of overhead spray sprinklers

Here’s how to apply.

There also may be other local rebates.

More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only 0.5% it is actually accessible to us. Removing salt from ocean water, known as desalination, can create drinkable water during a time of extreme drought and soaring demand. So what’s the problem?

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