CB’s Green Report: Southern California Water Supply Cut 10 Percent
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The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted Tuesday to reduce its water deliveries across the region by 10% this summer.

The water board has hinted for months that a major reduction was coming down the pipe due to drought conditions (for the past three years) and restrictions on water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Basically, there is more demand than available supply.

As the water district’s general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger summed it up nicely with – “We’re short.”

These are the agency’s first cuts to residential water users since the early 1990s drought. According to the North County Times, “the agency cut deliveries 17 percent in 1991 and 10 percent in 1977.” The cuts will begin on July 1 and last for a year.

And there is more bad news for Southern California residents. In addition to a smaller water allocations, the water rates will increase about 26 percent (on average) on Sept. 21.

“The era of big lawns is over,” said Bob Yamada, water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority.  “I think we’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes with regard to how we use water, and particularly how we use water outside.”

The Los Angeles Times explains the new reductions and its penalties:

“The Metropolitan Water District, which imports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and the Colorado River and sells it to local water districts, will achieve the reductions by imposing penalty rates. Local utilities that use more than their allocation will have to pay more.”

If Southern CA has been waiting for a signal to implment mandatory conservation…they certainly got it yesterday from the MWD,” twittered Ryan Alsop of the Long Beach Water Department.

Yet, the Los Angeles City Council just rejected the LA Department of Water and Power’s proposal to increase water rates and face penalties to encourage residents to decrease water consumption by 15 percent. The Council asked for more time to review and vet the proposal. Meanwhile, Long Beach has instituted a successful conservation program (pdf) over 21 months ago. Just last month, it “hit a 10-year low in consumption, or 14% drop in average water use.”

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These are the types of measures that environmentalists concerned about the restoration and preservation of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have been calling for for years. In fact, Doug Lovell, the Director of the Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers, is all in favor of a concept called “Regional Self-Sufficiency” or “Regional Water Reliability” being orchestrated by the Department of Water Resources.

“And it’s promoting the concepts that each area needs to be more self-contained and self-reliant when it comes to using their resources – in particular their stretched water resources in California,” said Lovell who believes the movement is underway in Los Angeles.

In addition to water conservation, Lovell cites desalination, reuse of wastewater and the beneficial use of stormwater as ways for areas outside of the Delta such as Los Angeles to become more water self-sufficient.

“That type of emphasis is going to solve some of the problems created by just exporting the resources from one place to another,” said Lovell.

And although water reductions can’t solve California’s water shortage problems or the issues in the Delta, it is a big part of the answer. According to Lovell, there are three major factors to restore and preserve the Delta ecosystem and create a sustainable water supply. He says the science is fairly clear that (1) water operations have to be changed, (2) toxins need to be controlled, and (3) invasive species need to be controlled.

And the recent Metropolitan Water District’s decision to reduce the amount of water available to Southern California shows that water exports from the Delta are a major component of the Golden State’s water equation.

“And if I had to put a priority on [factors], I would put the priority on the one that is most contentious — and that’s water operations,” said Lovell. “And that involves the quantity and the timing of the water that is exported, diverted or otherwise not allowed to flow through the Delta. It also addresses the issue of where that water is diverted from.”

The NCFFF Director says water exports are contentious because it involves people’s livelihood directly. Both the state and federal pumping plants export a little over 6 million acre feet a year from the Delta in a normal year. (And Lovell and other environmentalists estimate that of the 6 million acres per foot, 80 percent of that exported water goes to agriculture and helps drive a $25-40 billion irrigated agricultural economy.)

Thus, where the water goes and where the water flows are the major issues of the day. And with water reductions in place, the issue is waking Californians up and hitting them in their pockets.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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