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Climate and Environment

What To Know About Those New Water Restrictions Facing 6 Million Southern Californians

Aerial view of a lakebed that's visibly dry.
A visibly low water level is shown in this aerial view of Lake Oroville in Butte County, a body of water which is the second largest reservoir in the state of California.
(Courtesy California Department of Water Resources
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California Department of Water Resource)
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After the driest winter ever recorded, water officials say we don’t have enough water to meet summertime demand in L.A. and other southern California cities.

The climate crisis has worsened a three-year drought that’s left reservoirs at record-low levels. So Southern California water officials are taking what they say is an "unprecedented" step: declaring a water shortage emergency and restricting outdoor water use to just once a week, or requiring water agencies to use other strategies to save the same amount. This will apply in more than 80 cities in L.A., San Bernardino and Ventura counties, affecting six million people.

“We know what this means to communities. We know what we are requiring here, but we're facing a challenge,” said Adel Hagekhalil, the general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “And now we need to prioritize between watering our lawns or having water for our children and grandchildren and livelihood and health.”

The restrictions take effect June 1. Specific restrictions will be determined by each local water agency and you could be fined for going over water limits—and water use tends to go up in the summer.

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The local water agencies that will enforce the new restrictions are:

They could face up to $2,000 in fines from the Municipal Water District of Southern California if they don’t comply.

These agencies will start restricting outdoor watering for homes and businesses to one day a week, or require other ways to cut usage to a new monthly allocation limit.

If you live in one of the cities listed below, you need to check the specific restrictions for your area with your local water agency.

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Those restrictions could include:

  • water schedules for certain days of the week
  • limiting certain kinds of outdoor water use, and more

One exception: you’ll still be able to water trees and other shade plants by hand.

A list of southern California cities that will be affected by new rules restricting outdoor water use during drought.
If you live in one of these cities, you'll need to check with your local water agency about new outdoor watering restrictions. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared a Water Shortage Emergency amid unprecedented drought.
(Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
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LAist)

Some water agencies already have restrictions in place: Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has halved its customers’ water budgets, with fines for violations. LADWP already restricts watering to certain days a week.

The restrictions apply to areas that heavily depend on water from the State Water Project, a 705-mile system of canals, pipelines, and reservoirs that delivers drinking water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.

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Watering lawns makes up as much as 70% of the average household’s water consumption, said Hagekhalil. Consumers will need to cut that use by nearly half, he said.

“This is the new reality, this is the changing climate,” Hagekhalil said.

The average person in southern California uses 125 gallons of water per day—and that needs to be cut to 80 gallons per day, said Deven Upadhyay, the Metropolitan Water District’s chief operating officer.

“This is a crisis unlike anything that we've seen before,” said Upadhyay. “We really have a little more than half of the water that we need to be able to make it through the summertime and into the end of the year under normal demands. And that's why normal will not work.”

Parks and golf courses will also have watering restrictions, though they’re more flexible since most of those types of spaces already use recycled water, Hagekhalil said.

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Officials say if enough water isn’t saved, they may prohibit all outdoor watering as soon as September 1.

You can learn more about how to save water and find out about rebates and other incentives for water-saving strategies at BeWaterWise.com. Your local water agency should also have information on rebates and other water-saving programs.

A map of gradient orange areas in LA County served by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Map of areas that depend on the State Water Project. The Metropolitan Water District its member agencies in the State Water Project-dependent areas to restrict outdoor watering to just one day a week, or the equivalent.
(Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
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LAist)
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