Dec 28, 2000

Southern California’s Drought Preparedness Highlighted At International Conference

Southern California’s efforts to prevent economic impacts from a long-term drought were highlighted on Oct 11 at an international conference on drought issues.

Speakers and participants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia joined scientists and policy makers from across North America at the two-day conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

Steps taken by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to protect the region’s $600 billion economy and 17 million people from the impacts of long-term drought were outlined by Ane Deister, executive assistant to Metropolitan’s general manager and the national urban water representative to the president’s 15-member National Drought Policy Commission.

"Southern California has invested more than $8 billion in water conservation, water reclamation and storage since the 1980s," Deister said. "Even as California’s last state-wide drought of 1987-92 forced us to briefly impose water rationing, we were well along with expanded storage and conservation programs to protect us against the next one."

Last March, Metropolitan dedicated Diamond Valley Lake, a 4,500-acre, 260-billion-gallon reservoir that is already nearly half-full. Next week (Oct. 16 and 17) Metropolitan’s board of directors will consider offers to sell the district up to 100,000 acre-feet of water per year for transfer to the Southland during a dry spell or drought. (One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough water to meet the needs of two average families for one year.)

"One of the National Drought Commission’s findings was that the most successful drought-preparedness approaches included grassroots collaboration," Deister said. "Metropolitan was cited as a national model of cooperative programs for others to emulate."

Concluding its year-long study of the nation’s drought policy last May, the commission’s report noted that Metropolitan "emphasizes citizen and customer participation in water conservation, as well as long-term water supply and resource management programs."

These include Metropolitan’s Water Surplus and Drought Management Plan -- the result of 18 months of intensive collaboration between Metropolitan and its 27 member agencies -- designed to guide supply management during shortages; the Local Resources Program that helps local agencies develop enhanced recycling and groundwater recovery programs; and conservation programs for residential, commercial and industrial water-use efficiency.

The conference is being sponsored by the National Ground Water Association, the National Drought Mitigation Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, The Irrigation Association and the American Water Resources Association.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a consortium of 27 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The District imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies and helps its members to develop increased water recycling, desalination, conservation, storage and other water-management programs.

SOURCE: Metro Water District Press Office