Too Early to Say Drought, But Southland is Well Prepared for Period of Low Rainfall

Feb. 6, 2001

It’s too early to say that California is entering another drought -- heavy snows and rains can still fall in the Sierra Nevada -- but the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today assured consumers that it is well prepared to help the region through one or more dry years.

Nonetheless, Metropolitan is pushing a commercial-industrial water conservation program that will save businesses water, power and money.

The state Department of Water Resources has announced that because of moderate rainfall and snowfall in Northern California, at this point the state can only promise 20 percent of expected supplies delivered through the State Water Project. Earlier this winter, DWR’s initial allocation was for 40 percent of requested state project supplies.

"Metropolitan will provide its region with a reliable and dependable water supply through this year and the foreseeable future," said MWD General Manager Ronald R. Gastelum. "If necessary in the future, we’re prepared, and we stand ready to work with the governor for a coordinated statewide response.

"This isn’t another energy crisis by any means," Gastelum said, responding to the announcement that the state is reducing its initial water delivery estimates to Metropolitan and other water agencies that have contracts for SWP water.

"We have stored water for future use, which you can’t with electricity. Additionally, we’re prepared to supplement local supplies with water from a wider range of sources than we’ve ever had before."

Gastelum noted that in the 10 years since the state’s last drought, Southern California has invested billions of dollars in water conservation, recycling, storage and infrastructure programs. Foremost among the new safeguards is Diamond Valley Lake, the 4,500-acre reservoir in southwest Riverside County. Capable of holding 800,000 acre-feet, or 269 billion gallons, the reservoir was dedicated last March and already is more than half full.

Also last spring, the President’s National Drought Policy Commission said Metropolitan’s preparations "ensure reliable water supplies for 17 million people, despite weather, regulatory or disaster-based drought pressures."

"Our most important resource has been the conservation efforts of Southern California’s residents," Gastelum said. "Not only have they made water conservation practices a way of life, they’ve helped us to install 1.6 million ultra-low-flush toilets and 3.2 million low-flow showerheads in their homes.

"This week, we are taking water conservation to the next level and promoting a $2.5 million conservation program that offers incentives to businesses, industries and institutions to install water-saving fixtures and systems. The program is being launched Thursday (Feb. 1) with advertisements in newspapers throughout the region."

Source: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California