Millions of California residents risk lacking water for essential use in the near future if they do not start rationing it now. Over six million residents of Southern California are called upon to cut their water usage, following a once-in-a-millennium drought that has lasted longer than expected, driving the water levels in reservoirs to historic lows.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves over 20 million people, faces the worst restrictions. This is the first time in nearly a century that the locals will have to be content with up to a 35% cut in their daily water usage.
Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager of the district, has urged residents to limit outdoor water usage. Those who use water for gardens have been asked to restrict watering to once a week. Further, they have been advised to cut water used for other outdoor activities such as car washing.
“This is real; this is serious and unprecedented,” Hagekhalil told publication Al Jazeera. “We need to do it, otherwise we don’t have enough water for indoor use, which is the basic health and safety stuff we need every day.”
While the district has faced water shortages previously and imposed restrictions, there has never been a case of this magnitude. “This is the first time we’ve said we don’t have enough water [from the Sierra Nevadas] to last us for the rest of the year unless we cut our usage by 35 percent.”
Southern California mainly relies on stream water that originates from the Sierra Nevadas and the Rocky Mountains. When the snow melts from the mountains and flows downstream, the water is captured in reservoirs for future use. The system has worked effectively for the past century, but the last two decades have been a problem. Prolonged droughts fueled by the climate crisis have significantly reduced water levels, hence the depletion of reservoirs.
The high temperatures caused by climate change have already cut down the snowpack on the Sierra Nevadas by 32% of its normal volume this year. The result is prolonged droughts with less water. Further, lack of precipitation over very long periods now necessitates water rationing.
Officials are now urging residents to use greywater from other house chores to water their gardens. However, they are asked to only apply this to the ideal types of vegetation.
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