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Climate and Environment

Angelenos Continue To Save Water, But More Heat And La Niña Loom

A close up of a sprinkler spraying grass along a sidewalk. Tree trunks rise from the grass between the sidewalk and the curb.
Sprinklers outside a home in Hancock Park on a Wednesday, a day no one should be watering in L.A. Current rules restrict Angelenos to two days of outdoor watering: Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Sunday and Thursday for even ones.
(Erin Stone
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The L.A. Department of Water and Power says Angelenos are conserving more water in the face of drought. But there’s a catch: it’s getting hotter, and that means water use tends to go up.

Angelenos are steadily doing their part, but LADWP has emphasized that water-saving efforts will need to ramp up as we enter the hottest part of the year.

In July, L.A. residents achieved another record month of water savings, reducing water use 11% from the same month last year. Another indication Angelenos are paying attention: water waste complaints to LADWP went up again in July, leading to 117 citations and several monetary fines, according to the agency.

Overall, the Southland has dropped water use nearly 6% from June 2020, according to the State Water Resources Control Board (the board has yet to publish July data). Statewide, water use in June was 7.6% lower than in June 2020. That’s still a far cry from the 15% reduction Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for.

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L.A. purchases about 40% of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or MWD, which oversees the State Water Project, a system that pumps water from reservoirs in the northern part of the state. The regional wholesaler also operates the Colorado River Aqueduct, a system that pipes water from Colorado River reservoirs, the biggest of which are Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Ongoing drought exacerbated by the climate crisis has left both of those supplies at historically low levels. Restrictions started in June to help conserve State Water Project water after several years of drought were punctuated by this past winter being the driest on record, leaving the Sierra Nevada snowpack alarmingly sparse.

Since 2009, L.A. hasn’t allowed outdoor watering more than three times a week. That conservation ethos is partially why Angelenos can still water twice a week, instead of once-a-week like many southern California cities.

Typically in dry years, L.A. and other southern California cities that have access to both the State Water Project and the Colorado River rely more heavily on the Colorado River. (More on why that is here). That’s why last year, L.A. upped its reliance on Colorado River water — but that source is also stretched thin. Lake Mead, the river’s largest reservoir, now stands so low skeletons are being discovered in the lakebed.

"Certainly the situation is quite serious," Anselmo Collins, senior assistant general water manager for LADWP, told the agency's board on Tuesday. "We're doing OK now, but we're not in the best situation yet. So we need to continue conserving as we're doing right now."

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico are already dealing with unprecedented water cuts due to Colorado River reservoirs’ low levels. Collins said California could face more severe water cuts in the next couple years.

To put a cherry on top — the atmospheric wave called La Niña is expected next year. That usually means an abnormally dry winter.

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LADWP Offers Recycled Water To Irrigate Outside
  • LADWP, in partnership with LA Sanitation and Environment, has reopened two local recycled water filling stations for customers to pick up free recycled, non-drinkable water for their landscaping needs. Two refill stations are located at the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant and the LA Zoo parking lot. To be eligible for the program, Angelenos must be an active LADWP customer, complete and sign an application form, and complete a brief training class available onsite.

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