Sorry, but if you’re one of millions living in drought-afflicted southern California, you’ll have to hold off on watering your azaleas. As of Wednesday, millions homeowners in southern California are being required to limit outdoor water usage to just one day a week.
Southern California is being asked to cut water usage by 35% to conserve what little water the state has left. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which is backed by government agencies and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is showing extreme levels of drought all throughout the Midwest as well. Significant areas of the southwest from southern Oregon to New Mexico have seen little-to-no rain, as of the monitor’s latest update May 24.
These restrictions were announced back in April in order to help cut back on individual homeowners outsized outdoor water usage. The constraints aren’t just limited to sprinkler systems either. Residents are being told to curtail hand watering plants and trees or halt using any other drip irrigation systems. Those who break restrictions could be hit with $2,000 fines. If things don’t get better by September, these communities may be completely restricted from any outdoor watering, according to water district officials. Restrictions are also being placed on grass watering for non-recreational purposes, such as decorative strips of turf found outside businesses.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which encompasses the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura, includes many individual districts that depend on the State Water Project, a water storage and delivery system that pipes H2O for over 27 million Californians. Several of those districts on the north end of the MWD, encompassing about six million residents, depend significantly on the SWP to get clean water, according to the water district website. The drought has created such a huge water shortage that the district says it cannot meet demand.
The drought has depleted reservoirs that the SWP has depended on for decades along the Colorado River. Other states are also growing desperate as the drought continues. Utah has even suggested creating a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean into the Great Salt Lake.
But if things don’t get better via local efforts, the state might step in as well. California Governor Gavin Newsom has said the state would have to step in and apply much broader restrictions. Residents have been asked to voluntarily cut back water consumption for this drought that’s lasted years, but usage was up 19% in March despite an extreme dry spell for the first three months of the year, which is usually California’s rainy season. It’s only expected to get worse.
“Californians made significant changes since the last drought but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count,” Newsom said in a statement last week.
This multi-year drought is likely the worst seen since the days Vikings swarmed the coasts of Europe. Some studies have predicted the rationing could become drastic, as the drought might not let up for another decade.