Newsom eases drought restrictions, increases state water deliveries
The series of “atmospheric river” storms that inundated much of the state prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday to ease emergency drought restrictions and announce that agencies across California would be receiving dramatically higher State Water Project deliveries.
“The weather whiplash we’ve experienced in the past few months makes it crystal clear that Californians and our water system have to adapt to increasingly extreme swings between drought and flood,” Newsom said in a statement. “As we welcome this relief from the drought, we must remain focused on continuing our all-of-the-above approach to future-proofing California’s water supply.”
Newsom’s announcement means that water agencies — including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — will now receive 75% of their requested allotment from the State Water Project. That’s a dramatic increase from December, when agencies were told to expect only 5% of their requests.
The anticipated allotments increased to 30% in January, then to 35% in February.
“The increased state allocation will provide much-needed relief to our stressed water supply conditions,” MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said in a statement. “After the three driest years in state history, we’ve just experienced one of the wettest winters. Next year could bring a return to extraordinarily dry conditions. But this is a powerful reminder of our new reality and the climate extremes we must adapt to quickly and responsibly.”
The MWD is the water wholesaler that delivers supplies that serve 19 million people in six Southern California counties. The agency announced last week that it was lifting the emergency outdoor watering restrictions it imposed last year in the face of the protracted drought.
With the state’s water fortunes reversing, MWD officials on Monday will begin refilling the region’s largest reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County. It will be the first time in three years the reservoir has been refilled.
“As we swing from one weather extreme to another, we must store as much available water as possible during wet conditions in preparation for the next inevitable dry period,” Hagekhalil said. “That requires Metropolitan and other water agencies to capture and distribute water into diverse storage accounts, and it requires everyone across Southern California to maintain water-efficient habits.”
Newsom’s lifting of emergency drought measures on Friday meant an end to the voluntary 15% water-use-reduction target that was implemented last year, although residents are still urged to continue conserving any way they can. His action also ended the requirement that local water agencies implement “level two” of their drought contingency plans. A state of emergency issued for all 58 counties in the state to facilitate drought response and recovery efforts will remain in place.