As Californians faced the driest January-March period in the state’s recorded history this year, new research shows the drought is more serious than experts thought. The current drought is the driest period in southwestern North America in the last 1,200 years, making it a ‘megadrought,’ according to a 2022 study conducted by UCLA, NASA and the Columbia Climate School.
While the study’s climate models show that human-caused climate change has severely impacted the drought, “The past 22 years would have probably still been the driest period in 300 years (regardless of human actions),” according to Park Williams, UCLA geographer and the study’s lead author.
Not showing signs of stopping, our region’s high temperatures and low precipitation levels continue to wreak havoc on California’s water supply. Two of the largest water reservoirs in North America – Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which both help supply California with water through the Colorado River – reached the lowest recorded levels by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As dry conditions are likely to continue and fire danger is increasing, it will take advanced conservation and multiple ‘wet years’ to revive our water supply.
Federal, state and local agencies act to conserve water
In response to these historic conditions, federal, state and local agencies have stepped up to slow the impact of the drought and sustain California’s water supply. Last August, federal officials cut California’s allocation of Colorado River water. In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a ‘drought emergency’ and called for a voluntary 15 percent reduction in water use, which was recently increased to 20-30 percent. On June 1, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) began restricting outdoor water use for the approximately 6 million people it serves across Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. MWD and otheragencies have also invested in water-saving infrastructure and storage to ease the burden.
This summer, step it up and slow your flow!
Community support is needed now, more than ever, to help current water supplies last as long as possible. The time is now for Southern Californians to make mindful choices to preserve our most precious resource – water.
The biggest water savings can be found outdoors. Here are a few drought-fighting ways we can help conserve our water supply:
- Convert your yard to drought-resistant landscaping.
- Only water your yard, lawn, and outdoor plants once a week.
- Reduce evaporation by watering before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- Turn off irrigation during rain and for 48 hours after.
- Fix leaks as soon as they are detected.
- Use a broom or electric leaf blower to clean driveways, sidewalks and patios instead of spraying with water.
- Reduce car wash water waste by using a bucket and a low-flow hose that you can turn off at the handle.
- Minimize refilling of pools and spas and cover them on warm days to reduce evaporation.
However you decide to help, the time to do it is NOW. Together, we can make a difference in ensuring water supplies get us through this unprecedented drought. To find information on current water-use efficiency rebates, drought conditions and restrictions, contact your local water provider or visit their websites.
How SAWPA is helping to ease the drought
The more than 6 million people who live in the Santa Ana River Watershed can be encouraged that the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and its members and partners are finding new, collaborative and innovative ways to ease the drought. Programs like the One Water One Watershed (OWOW), Weather Modification (cloud seeding) Pilot Program and Water-Energy Community Action Network (WECAN) are paving the way for Southern Californians to continue having access to safe, clean and sustainable tap water.
You can learn more about these programs and SAWPA’s drought actions on the Drought Response page.
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