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Climate and Environment

Water Restrictions Have Started In Southern California. Here's What You Need To Know

Layers of dry shore surround a lake with a bridge running across
An aerial drone view of Lake Oroville on May 6 when the state second largest reservoir was at just 55% of total capacity.
(Kelly M. Grow
/
Courtesy California Department of Water Resource)
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More than 6 million Southern California residents will be affected by water restrictions taking effect on Wednesday, June 1. That means many of us will have to limit outdoor watering to one day a week. In L.A, it'll be two days a week.

If you live in one of the affected cities, which you can see in the below map, you need to check the specific restrictions from your local water agency.

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
/
LAist)

If you live in the city of L.A. and your address ends with an odd number, you’ll only be able to water outside Monday and Friday. For addresses with even numbers, your watering days are Thursday and Sunday. You can only water before 9 am or after 4 pm.

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You can still hand-water trees and gardens where you’re growing food.

L.A.’s Rules

In response to the last major drought, in 2016 L.A. enacted a water conservation ordinance with six phases of restrictions that can kick in depending on how serious the drought is.

Starting June 1, Angelenos will move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 rules.

The Basics For L.A. City Residents

  • Addresses ending with odd numbers can only irrigate outside Monday and Friday.
  • Addresses ending with even numbers have Sunday and Thursday to irrigate.
  • You can only water before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

    • If you have sprayhead sprinklers or bubblers, you can only water for 8 minutes per watering day per station with a max of 16 minutes per week. 
    • If you have water-conserving spray nozzles like standard rotors and multi-stream rotary heads, you can water no more than 15 minutes per cycle, with up to two cycles per watering day per station for a total of 60 minutes per week.

Recommendations

  • For pools, LADWP recommends using a pool cover to prevent evaporation
  • Don’t wash your car at home — go to a commercial car wash, which likely use recycled water, according to LADWP

Exceptions

  • These limits don’t apply if you use drip irrigation to water food you’re growing. You can also water food crops and vegetation with a hand-held hose as long as that hose has ah a self-closing water shut-off device. These exceptions are allowed every day except between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • Commercial LADWP customers using recycled water—including city parks, golf courses, & industries that use treated wastewater for their landscape irrigation and operational needs—are also exempt.

The Fines

  • You could receive a fine of up to $600 for not following these rules starting June 1. LADWP is increasing the number of personnel in its water conservation patrol unit to patrol for water violations. LADWP says fines will be a last resort after education and written warnings. You can report wasteful water use at ladwp.com/waterwaste.

Existing Restrictions That Are Still In Place

  • No water should flow off of your property
  • No water should leak from any pipe or fixture
  • No watering within 48 hours after a measurable rain event
  • No hosing of driveway or sidewalk
  • No washing of vehicles using a hose without a self-closing nozzle

Read The Full Ordinance

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Why This Is Happening

Last month the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or MWD, declared a water shortage emergency. The MWD is the largest water supplier in the nation, serving 19 million people across southern California and the water shortage emergency applies to more than 80 cities that completely or heavily rely on the State Water Project, a system of pipelines that brings water to the Southland from Northern California.

The emergency declaration required six of MWD’s 26 member agencies, including the L.A. Department of Water and Power, to develop additional rules to drastically cut customer water use this summer, starting June 1.

Here in L.A., most of our water is piped from northern California and the Colorado River. Those resources have been severely depleted by drought made even worse by the climate crisis.

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The restrictions primarily target the use of drinkable water for outside irrigation.

At the state level, water regulators voted last week to adopt an emergency drought regulation that bans using drinking water to irrigate decorative lawns at commercial, industrial and institutional properties. That ban doesn’t (yet) apply to yards at individual homes.

Experts say conservation is a critical part of learning to live with an increasingly dry climate.

“In California, it's not that there's one kind of silver bullet solution for everything,” said Alvar Escriva-Bou, a senior fellow with the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California. “We have to try to work with everything that we have, so conservation is one important part of that, especially during droughts.”

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Currently, outdoor irrigation makes up about 35% of L.A.’s total water use. During the last severe drought in 2015, Angelenos successfully cut water use by 20%, according to the city. But since then, water use has crept up. This winter was the driest on record, but in March water use in L.A. was 22% over 2020 levels, according to state data.

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